They have decided to introduce seats that let passengers lie down in the economy cabin.
(OMG what will the first class passengers who are slumming it in their suites at the front of the airplane think?)
Called Skycouch seats, the seats will recline into an almost-flat bed for customers willing to pay extra (approx. $70 per seat). Each of the seats is equipped with a footrest that can be lifted for a reclining position. Legroom also increases by an inch, to 33 inches. Air New Zealand will offer them on new aircraft being delivered later this year which are to be used on the airline's longest routes, including LA-Auckland.
According to the USA Today article, "Air New Zealand's move is the first by an airline to give economy passengers an option to sleep more comfortably. The economy cabin has been ignored by airlines for years as they spent to upgrade first- or business-class seats that provide higher profit margins."
Business or first class sections of aircraft make the most money for an airline and it generally operates on the 80:20 rule. That means 80% of the revenue on a particular flight comes from 20% of the seats. Ever wonder why airlines try so hard to woo passengers to the front of airplane with promises of not just travel but an 'experience?' It starts with the lounge in the air terminal that is tucked away behind a locked door. [No riff raff allowed.] All the free food and booze you can handle. In the air, the fancy seats and free drinks and showers and unlimited luggage provisions make travel more civilized. People are willing to pay for this so airlines covet them to build brand loyalty...and to pay the bills.
This move by Air New Zealand is refreshing because it signals to me that this airline is serious about building brand loyalty with ALL its customers. Yes, the people at the front will always be important but so too are the people at the back who are spending their hard earned dollars to travel.
Giving travellers on a long trans-Pacific flight another option to increase their comfort at a reasonable cost - especially given the hassle of just getting on the airplane - is just good business. When will other airlines follow suit?