After Qantas announced the future introduction of an in-flight wellness zone, New Zealand Air has stepped up its game with the first-ever lie-flat economy beds for its ultra-long-haul flights.

The product, named ‘Skynest’, is expected to be introduced in 2024, one year before Qantas’ wellbeing zone is scheduled to hit the London-Sydney route in 2025. It is yet another innovation that aims to boost the in-flight experience for economy class passengers by focusing on wellness and relaxation.

With a seat pitch limited to approximately 33 inches, just three inches more than a typical low-cost flight, ultra-long-haul flights are notoriously uncomfortable for economy class passengers, given the extensive journey time. Air New Zealand’s Skynest pods aim to tackle this by providing bunk beds that travellers can book for up to four hours during a flight. The add-on service will help deliver an enhanced flight experience for its passengers, tapping into the experience economy trend.

Research in recent years has suggested that long-haul flights can impact mental and physical health. Passengers with phobias or anxiety disorders may find being limited to a confined space 37,000 feet in the air stressful. From a physical perspective, long-haul flights can cause issues such as jet lag, which affects the body’s circadian rhythm, resulting in difficulty sleeping. Furthermore, the lack of exercise or movement on a 20-hour flight can potentially cause deep vein thrombosis, particularly in those older than 40, according to the CDC. This could also be an indicator for its target market with this product.

Many consumers have become acutely aware of these issues due to increased awareness of mental health and wellbeing. According to a GlobalData Q3 2021 Global Consumer Survey, 57% of respondents said a product or service that impacts their health and wellbeing either “always” or “often” influences their purchase. As such, Air New Zealand has recognised this and created a product that will allow economy class passengers to travel in more comfort if they wish.

Long haul travel faces a new era of innovation

More airlines are likely to follow as consumer awareness of health and wellbeing continues to grow. The changes are inevitable. Over the next few decades, air travel is facing an era of rapid modernisation both in fuel efficiency and product development. In the early 2000s, the low-cost evolution took hold of the industry and, to this day, continues to disrupt the aviation sector, particularly in the short-haul space, due to the considerably lower operational costs that translate into lower fares. However, as the pandemic has eased, demand for long haul travel and new experiences has grown significantly. According to a GlobalData poll from January 2022, 38.2% of respondents said they intend to travel to another continent within the next 12 months*.

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By GlobalData

Ultimately, full-service carriers need to be able to differentiate themselves from low-cost carriers in the marketplace. Following consumer trends such as health, wellness, and experience, economy is the perfect starting point and will help create an exciting new era for long-haul travel.

*GlobalData Opinion Poll – “Which of the following trips would you consider taking within the next 12 months?” – Closed January 2022 – 1,746 responses