Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lie-flat seats? In economy class?

From the Department of Good Ideas:
Seats that let passengers lie down are coming to the economy cabin.

Air New Zealand says it will introduce this year coach seats that recline into an almost-flat bed for customers willing to pay extra.

The carrier will install the seats in the first 11 rows of the economy cabin for three Boeing 777 planes scheduled to start delivery in November. They'll fly on the airline's longest routes, such as Los Angeles-Auckland, New Zealand.

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.

As somebody who has endured more than his share of discomfort sitting in economy class seats on lengthy trans-continental flights, I cannot begin to express what a good idea this is. Airlines have historically ignored the comfort of economy class passengers while focusing on amenities for higher-paying first and business class customers, and while that's certainly fine from a business point of view, it's nice to see at least one airline make an attempt to provide a bit more comfort for the masses consigned to steerage. (Some of us who fly internationally for business, after all, don't get a choice as to where we sit due to company policies dictating the purchase of economy seating.)

There are some drawbacks to this innovation. The length of these lie-flat beds is limited to three seats across, so taller people might still feel cramped. And, unless you luck out end end up being the only person on your three-seat row (or end up with only one other person in your row who doesn't mind sleeping next to you), they probably won't be of any use to you. To that end, Air New Zealand is considering allowing couples traveling together to buy the third seat in the three-seat row for half price. Given that fact as well as the fact that Air New Zealand is already charging a $70 premium for these lie-flat seats, the final price of the could become considerable. But on particularly long flights it might just be worth it, especially if it still ends up being cheaper than a seat in first or business class.

Hopefully this concept will prove to be successful for Air New Zealand, and other long-haul international carriers (*cough* Emirates *cough*) will follow suit.

No comments: