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Airline Offers Beds for Coach Passengers—Will More Follow?

The cozy add-on could make it easier to get some sleep during a long-haul flight.

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Everyone has found themselves in the miserable position of trying to get decent sleep on a plane. Unless you're lucky enough to have received an upgrade to first class, it can be nearly impossible to get comfortable enough to doze off while your limited recline forces you to slumber while sitting up. This can be especially frustrating on longer or overnight flights, where being able to rest can make all the difference in feeling refreshed when you land. But in the quest to win over more customers, one airline has announced it will offer beds for coach passengers on its flights. Read on to see how you could get some serious shut-eye on your next trip.

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One airline will allow economy passengers to book beds during long flights.

A passenger plane landing at an airport

Most people don't expect to get super comfortable and stretch out during a long flight, but beginning this fall, coach passengers on Air New Zealand will soon have the option to book themselves bunk beds as an add-on, The Washington Post reports.

The comfy new feature—referred to as the Skynest—is being added to some retrofitted planes and newly ordered widebody aircraft in the carrier's fleet. Passengers holding an economy ticket will be allowed to pay for a timeslot during a long-haul flight to catch some sleep in one of six pods, The Post reports.

The airline is billing the amenity as a first-time offering for the industry. The perk could be especially enticing for those embarking on the carrier's flights between New York City and Auckland, New Zealand, that stretch on for around 17 hours.

The amenity allows travelers to get a lie-flat sleeping experience without booking a business-class ticket.

older woman sleeping on airplane

Passengers who opt for the amenity will have access to a pod that is two feet wide and just over six feet long, outfitted with a fresh pillow and sleeping mask, as well as a USB charging station for devices. Each reservation runs as a four-hour timeslot with a 30-minute grace period in between that allows the flight crew to clean and refresh the spaces, per The Post.

"We know that most people undergo a 90-minute REM (rapid eye movement) cycle. So, the four-hour block allows them to have two of those REM cycles with time to wind down and then wake back up," Leanne Geraghty, chief customer and sales officer at Air New Zealand, told The Post.

While the new feature will officially debut in September, the airline says it currently plans to sell access to the beds as an add-on when booking reservations with hopes to eventually sell available timeslots to sleepy passengers mid-flight. The carrier says it's also still determining what it will charge for the experience but says it was considering around $400 to $500 before the pandemic.

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Passengers also have access to another configuration that gives them a bed.

seats on airplane
Aureliy / Shutterstock

While the Skynest may be the first time an airline has sold dedicated sleeping space to coach passengers, it's not the first time Air New Zealand has offered beds to economy ticket holders. Beginning just over a decade ago, the carrier also pioneered a booking option known as Skycouch, allowing passengers to reserve an entire row of three seats during a long-haul flight, The New York Times reports. In addition, guests receive a pillow and thin mattress pad to make the arrangement even more comfortable.

Even though taking up an entire row may sound like a prohibitively costly move, the booking is priced to cost less than paying for three seats individually. For example, an upcoming Skycouch reservation for a flight from New York to Auckland this June could be found for $1,915 compared to $1,310 for a single seat, per The Times. By comparison, business-class seats that convert into lie-flat beds on the same flight ran for $6,467.

"No frills. No hot towels or Champagne," Amanda Meltzer, MD, a traveler who regularly uses Skycouch on trips to New Zealand from the U.S., told The Times. "But you can sleep and avoid two weeks of horrendous jet lag when you get there. I honestly would never fly there again without it."

Air New Zealand is also not the only airline to provide full-row bed arrangements. Carriers such as Lufthansa, Vietnam Airlines, and Brazilian company Azul Airlines also allow passengers to book similar reservations to allow for shut-eye, The Times reports.

Major U.S. airlines haven't announced plans to add beds to their flights.

man enjoying his business class seat

Even though international airlines may have adopted sleeping arrangements for coach passengers, the trend doesn't appear to be taking off for U.S. carriers. When reached for comment about bed availability by Best Life, United Airlines and American Airlines each referenced their premium business class offerings. Neither confirmed any plans to add special reservation options in the near future. Best Life also reached out to Delta Air Lines for comment, but has yet to hear back.

However, those looking for some space to get comfy may have one economy option. "JetBlue is known for having the most legroom in coach and offers Even More Space seating for customers looking for a little extra room to settle in," a spokesperson for the airline told Best Life in an email. This includes availability on the carrier's transcontinental flights, international flights to London, and soon-to-launch service to Paris.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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