I flew on the world's 4th longest flight in a 'Skycouch' — an economy seat that converts into a bed — and it was a lifesaver on the 16-hour journey

ANZ's Skycouch view from the aisle.
Taylor Rains/Insider
  • Air New Zealand operates the world's 4th longest flight between New York and Auckland at over 8,800 miles.

  • The carrier uses a Boeing 787-9 with three classes, including business, premium economy, and regular economy.

  • I flew in the airline's unique economy Skycouch product to New York — here's what it was like.

Air New Zealand recently launched the world's new 4th longest flight, journeying 16 hours from Auckland to New York, and a whopping 17 and a half hours back.

Flying Air New Zealand in business class.
ANZ's Boeing 787 in Auckland after the inaugural from New York.Taylor Rains/Insider

Air New Zealand will operate the 4th longest flight in the world when it launches the first-ever nonstop route between the US East Coast and the South Pacific nation

The country recently reopened its borders to tourists after over two years of strict COVID-19 restrictions, and travelers are eager to enjoy New Zealand's beautiful rolling hills and volcanoes.

Auckland skyline.
Auckland Skyline from the top of Mt. Eden.Taylor Rains/Insider

I flew over on the inaugural flight to Auckland on Sept 17 in business class, which was a great experience.

Flying Air New Zealand in business class.
Taylor Rains/Insider

I flew on the world's new 4th longest flight from New York to Auckland and Air New Zealand's business class made the over 17-hour journey easily bearable

The food was delicious and the Boeing 787-9s lay-flat bed was spacious and comfortable, making the over 17-hour journey pass quickly.

Flying Air New Zealand in business class.
Taylor Rains/Insider

After a week of bleisure time — the popular term for business and leisure — in New Zealand, including exploring the famous Hobbiton movie set and going on a walking tour around the city, it was time to head home.

Sitting in front of a Hobbit home at the movie set in New Zealand.
Sitting in front of a Hobbit home at the movie set in New Zealand.Taylor Rains/Insider

For my return flight, I booked the one-of-a-kind Skycouch offered in ANZ's economy class.

Air New Zealand Skycouch.
Air New Zealand

The 10 longest routes in the world flown by airlines, ranked by distance

Because the country is uniquely isolated in the South Pacific, the carrier flies a large network of long-haul flights. So, it has been coming up with outside-the-box products to make the journeys more bearable for passengers.

Air New Zealand skycouch.
Air New Zealand

Many carriers, like Singapore Airlines and United Airlines, have focused on improving their premium economy product. These seats typically have more padding and a legrest, making sleep easier than in regular economy.

United Airlines premium plus.
United Airlines premium plus.Taylor Rains/Insider

However, ANZ has gone in a different direction. Instead, the carrier has the Skycouch, which is a row of three economy seats that convert into a bed that people can fully lie down on.

ANZ's Skycouch view from the aisle.
Taylor Rains/Insider

The Skycouch was introduced in 2011 to much fanfare and has since been adopted by other carriers, like Azul Brazilian Airlines and China Southern Airlines.

Azul Brazilian Airlines Skycouch.
Azul Brazilian Airlines Skycouch.Azul Brazilian Airlines

ANZ also recently announced the addition of another lay-down economy product — the Skynest. Like the Skycouch, the bunk-beds will be for economy passengers.

The Skynest stairs.
Taylor Rains/Insider

I tried Air New Zealand's one-of-a-kind Skynest and found the cozy bunk bed to be a great sleep option for economy passengers

For those that book the Skycouch, the fee is added on top of the fare for the ticket. Solo passengers will typically pay a higher fee to book the Skycouch, but will not share with a stranger. Parties of three can bundle two Skycouches or one with an extra seat.

Skycouch bundle options on the ANZ website.
The bundle options for the Skycouch for three people on a February 2023 roundtrip flight.Air New Zealand

For example, a roundtrip flight from New York to Auckland in February 2023 in the Skycouch is $3,812 for one person. Premium economy on the same trip is $4,278, while business is $11,951.

ANZ's website showing how much a Skycouch costs for the NY to Auckland leg.
When purchasing the ticket, the Skycouch is reserved per leg. From NY to Auckland, the price is $605, while the return price for the Skycouch is $1,320. Those costs are on top of the regular roundtrip fare of $1,887.Air New Zealand

Source: Air New Zealand

I've been excited to try ANZ's Skycouch since its launch over a decade ago, and I finally got to. Here's what my experience was like.

Laying on the Skycouch with my head towards the window.
Taylor Rains/Insider

I arrived at Auckland International Airport at 3:15 for my 6:40 PM flight. To my surprise, there were no priority check-in options for Skycouch passengers, only for business class or premium economy.

Air New Zealand check-in line.
Taylor Rains/Insider

Fortunately, passengers that do not have checked luggage can opt to check-in quickly on ANZ's mobile app, at the ticket counter, or at a kiosk.

ANZ kiosk at Auckland airport.
Taylor Rains/Insider

Auckland had a large area with dozens of kiosks available in its international terminal, making it easy to get a boarding pass and head to security.

ANZ's room of kiosks.
Taylor Rains/Insider

For those with checked luggage, Skycouch passengers will need to wait in the economy lanes to drop them off. The lines were short before my Saturday evening flight, but will likely get busier as New Zealand soon gets into its summer season, so budget extra time.

Economy sign at check-in.
Taylor Rains/Insider

With my boarding pass and passport in hand, I passed security and walked to my gate. The process took about 30 minutes from curb to gate.

Holding my boarding pass and passport in front of the ANZ sign.
Taylor Rains/Insider

Unfortunately, we were delayed about 40 minutes due to a late inbound flight, an ANZ customer service agent told Insider. However, we made up time in the sky and still landed on schedule at 6:45 PM EST.

Gate 15 at Auckland airport.
Taylor Rains/Insider

While I was in the Skycouch, it did not come with priority boarding. I was assigned row 38ABC, meaning I actually boarded in the last group because business class, premium economy, and rows 41-61 were boarded first.

Row 38ABC placard on the plane.
Taylor Rains/Insider

My boarding pass indicated my seat was specifically 38C. If you're flying in the Skycouch solo or as a pair and see specific seats on your boarding pass, don't be confused, you still have the row to yourself.

Holding my boarding pass and passport in front of the ANZ sign.
My boarding pass also said "Skycouch" at the top.Taylor Rains/Insider

Once onboard the Boeing 787-9, I was quick to my seat as row 38 is right behind premium economy, which I was happy to bypass for an actual bed. In total, there are 13 Skycouch rows.

Flying Air New Zealand in business class.
Air New Zealand's premium economy section.Taylor Rains/Insider

Source: SeatGuru

Approaching the row, I immediately noticed a few things. First, the headrests had signs saying "reserved" in big letters, likely to deter regular economy passengers from unknowingly moving to a Skycouch seat.

Reserved signage on the Skycouch headrest.
Taylor Rains/Insider

I also saw three sets of pillows and blankets, so I had plenty of linens to keep me comfortable. However, the pillows were a little flimsy.

View of the Skycouch as a row of three seats with pillows on the seats.
Flying Air New Zealand's Skycouch.Taylor Rains/Insider

Fortunately, I was also provided with fluffier pillows and a mattress topper. Combining the topper, five pillows, and three blankets, I was perfectly set up for a warm and cozy ride. And, as someone who prefers sleeping with two pillows, I was thrilled.

The linens were waiting under the seats.
Taylor Rains/Insider

Aside from all the extras that come with the Skycouch, the economy product itself had the regular bells and whistles of a standard seat, including a tray table…

Tray table folded out.
Taylor Rains/Insider

…a seatback screen, which you could also order food and drinks from enroute…

Seatback screen with drink options to order.
I could order select drinks and snacks via the seatback screen and the flight attendants brought it right to me.Taylor Rains/Insider

…power outlets under the seat in front…

Power outlet under the seat in front.
Taylor Rains/Insider

…USB ports in the seatback screen…

My charging cable plugged into the USB port in the seatback screen.
Taylor Rains/Insider

…an adjustable headrest…

The headrest slightly folded showing the adjustments.
Taylor Rains/Insider

…a window dimmer…

Window dimmer button.
Taylor Rains/Insider

…headphones…

The headphones ANZ handed out.
These were great to have since I only have wireless headphonesTaylor Rains/Insider

…and plenty of legroom. At 5'3" and on the smaller side, I had plenty of space, and with 33 inches of pitch, even taller passengers should feel comfortable.

Me showing the leg room.
I had plenty of legroom to spare.Taylor Rains/Insider

Looking to my right, non-Skycouch rows have less legroom, which offer 31 inches of pitch, per SeatGuru.

View of the middle row from my seat.
Taylor Rains/Insider

The space is actually on par with competitors like American Airlines, though after trying the Skycouch, it's going to be hard to go back to a regular economy seat.

A view of the space between the seats and seatbacks.
Taylor Rains/Insider

Source: SeatGuru

Shortly after takeoff, the flight attendant came by and gave me two special seatbelts, including a "cuddle belt" and an "adult loop belt."

The package of belts for the Skycouch.
Taylor Rains/Insider

The "cuddle belt" kept me strapped in during turbulence when laying down…

The cuddle belt.
Taylor Rains/Insider

…while the "adult loop belt" acted as an extender so I could move around the couch when not sleeping instead of being locked in one seat.

The adult loop belt.
Taylor Rains/Insider

While I was given the option to put the Skycouch up right after takeoff, I decided to wait until after the dinner service. I did prop the legrest up to get comfortable though.

Me with the legrest up.
Taylor Rains/Insider

Dinner options included chicken or lamb, and since I rarely see any other options except chicken on flights, I had to go with the lamb.

The lamb with potatoes and peas.
Taylor Rains/Insider

The meal also came with bamboo utensils and several sides, including potatoes, peas, cheese, rice wagers, a roll and butter, a salad, a small chocolate bar, and a brownie.

My meal on a tray.
Taylor Rains/Insider

There were several drink options, like beer, wine, spirits, water, soda, coffee, tea, and juice. I opted for a beer and water and stowed it on the tray table next to me, which was another perk of having a row to myself.

Beer and water on the tray table next to me.
Taylor Rains/Insider

I thought the lamb was tasty, and the sides were filling, though overall it was not the best food I've had in economy. I'd rate it as just fine and as expected for the cabin.

Wide angle view my meal and drinks on the two tray tables.
Taylor Rains/Insider

After dinner, I wanted to get some work done, so I decided to put the Skycouch up and get settled. There are two buttons in the armrest — one to prop the legrest and a second for the recline.

The buttons on the armrest.
Taylor Rains/Insider

According to ANZ, the couch is 5'1" long and 29 inches wide. All of the armrests come up, meaning there were no obstructions.

The instruction card.
There was an instruction card that explained how to work the Skycouch.Taylor Rains/Insider

Source: Air New Zealand

At just 5'3," the bed was perfect for me. I could stretch my legs fully corner-to-corner, and I didn't feel like a sardine crushed in a can. However, I can imagine two grown adults sharing the space could get cramped, which is why I guess they call it the “cuddle belt.”

The Skycouch on Air New Zealand in its bed form with pillows and blankets.
Taylor Rains/Insider

Moreover, taller passengers would probably have to curl up pretty tight to keep their feet from extending into the aisle. One of the flight attendants told me that three adults or two adults with an older child have less of a lay-flat experience in the row.

Sitting on the Skycouch with my laptop and a view towards the aisle.
Taylor Rains/Insider

The woman behind me actually had a young daughter and teenage son with her, but echoed the crew, saying they couldn't all lie down. But, she liked being able to sit criss-cross, though said she's okay not having the Skycouch on her return flight.

The Skycouch.
People can easily sit up criss-cross in the seats when the legrests are fully up.Taylor Rains/Insider

Despite the issues, the flight attendant said she's had almost 100% positive feedback from all customers who've booked the row. She told Insider she thinks the Skycouch is a good solution for passengers without adding too much extra work for the crew.

View of the Skycouch and windows from the aisle.
Taylor Rains/Insider

The seat is versatile though. You can choose to put any legrest up or down, meaning you could create one recliner, or make a smaller bed with two legrests up for a child or smaller adult to sleep. This allows one person to stay seated if they prefer.

The legrests of the Skycouch up before I put the mattress pad on.
Taylor Rains/Insider

I will note that before you go through the trouble of setting up the bed, make sure you get everything you need from under the seat out first. If the bed is up, they're hard to get to.

My shoes stored by the bed.
I stuck my shoes between the bed and the fuselage wall for easy access.Taylor Rains/Insider

Once the bed was set up, I put my computer on my lap and leaned against the fuselage wall. The setup was comfortable, and I was able to tap into the free inflight WiFi.

Working on my laptop.
Taylor Rains/Insider

After getting some work done, I finally got ready to sleep. At first, I was a little worried the seats would be hard, but the mattress pad helped cushion the bed.

The pillows and mattress pad.
Taylor Rains/Insider

However, I found that I was only able to get comfortable by facing the seatback screens or laying on my back.

Laying on my back with my knees up.
Taylor Rains/Insider

The bed was too short to lay on my stomach, and facing the other way was difficult because the row in front reclined, so I was leaning against a slant and that position was just not ideal for sleep.

View of the reclined seat.
The seats in front (which was also a Skycouch) reclined.Taylor Rains/Insider

Nevertheless, I can sleep on my back or side easily, so the Skycouch was overall very cozy and I slept about eight hours.

Me laying on the Skycouch.
Flying Air New Zealand's Skycouch.Taylor Rains/Insider

My only other complaint is the slight lack of privacy. The middle rows could peer into my space, though it was dark, and the flight attendants instructed us to sleep with our heads towards to window, which helped.

View of the middle rows.
Taylor Rains/Insider

About 2 hours before landing, the crew served breakfast. We were given an option of eggs, chicken sausage, and baked beans, or cinnamon hotcakes. Each came with fruit, a roll, and a drink.

Breakfast of eggs, sausage, and baked beans.
Taylor Rains/Insider

As I'm not a fan of cinnamon, I went with the eggs, sausage, and beans, which were pretty good, though the eggs were just alright.

The breakfast was alright.
Taylor Rains/Insider

After breakfast, I headed to the lavatory, which was small but big enough for me to change clothes after the long journey. There was also a baby changing table and pretty wallpaper.

Butterfly wallpaper in the lavatory.
Taylor Rains/Insider

For landing, I had to put the Skycouch back in its regular position and say goodbye to what was the best long-haul economy sleep experience of my life.

View of under the seats.
I stuffed all the blankets and pillows under the seats for landing.Taylor Rains/Insider

While it's no business class, and you don't get the fancy meals or silverware, the Skycouch offers exactly what many passengers want and need on extremely long flights — a comfortable sleep.

Selfie in the Skycouch.
I was well-rested after the flight.Taylor Rains/Insider

I'll admit the bed isn't perfect and could be a pain for stomach-sleepers, but I think the simple and comfortable row is a game-changer for long-haul travel. Though, it's really ideal for one or two people.

View of the Skycouch from above.
Taylor Rains/Insider

I would recommend the Skycouch to those willing to spend the extra buck as it's a great alternative to business, and honestly better than competing premium economy products I've flown on.

The Skycouch.
Taylor Rains/Insider

Read the original article on Business Insider