Editor Update: Unfortunately the LHR-LAX route has now been suspended.
Air New Zealand have become one of my favourite airlines, and it goes without saying that they are my airline of choice when flying between London and Los Angeles. The airline operates a three-class service on a Boeing 777-300ER; which flies daily between the British capital, tinseltown, and Auckland in New Zealand. However, there is a unique product located within the Economy cabin. The Skycouch.
The outer set of seats (by the window) in the forward section of the economy cabin are designated Skycouch rows, something that was introduced following feedback from frequent fliers. The clever folks within the design and innovation team at Air New Zealand had the idea to utilise a set of three Economy seats, where a leg rest comes up from underneath at touch of a button to form a fully-flat couch, with room for up to two adults and small children to cuddle up together and get some well-deserved rest. Another key point of the SkyCouch is the ability for the leg rest to be adjusted individually from each seat at either 30, 60 or 90 degrees in order to suit the needs and comfort of each passenger. It goes without saying that it is no surprise how popular the Skycouch seats have become, and I was incredibly fortunate to see why many people travelling for both business and leisure like the product.
Check In and the Departures Area
Air New Zealand's flights between London, Los Angeles and Auckland now operates from Terminal 2 at Heathrow; which is otherwise known as The Queen's Terminal.
After a two-and-a-half-hour coach journey from my home to Heathrow Airport, it was a nice surprise to encounter a very short check-in process which must have taken a little under five minutes to complete. The agent was polite, friendly, and made good conversation with each passenger; something of which you don't see each time you pass through the airport!
Soon enough I was through security and into the duo-level departures area. You'll find a plethora of retail and dining outlets, including the very first John Lewis at an airport, and a restaurant by Heston Blumenthal.
Air New Zealand flights depart from the gates located in T2B. It's a satellite terminal which can be accessed via a passenger tunnel. Be warned that it is a 10-15 minute walk away from the departure lounge.
After a leisurely walk towards my departure gate, I took a seat and waited to be called forward to board the aircraft.
As the Skycouch seating is located within the forward section of the Economy cabin; you'll usually be invited to proceed along the air-bridge towards the end of the boarding process; unless you are a Airpoints Gold Elite, Gold or Koru Member.
I was welcomed on board with a cheery “Kia Ora” by two of the in-flight crew, who then checked my boarding pass and directed me towards my allocated seat, or should that read seats in this instance. As with any large aircraft, you'll board through the second door and walk through parts of the Business Premier and Premium Economy cabins; however I wasn't that bothered seeing as my Skycouch was waiting for me!
The Economy Cabin
The 244-seat Economy cabin is split into two sections that are located from the middle of the wings through to the rear of the aircraft, mostly in a 3-4-3 configuration. This is inclusive of the Skycouch rows.
Although the Economy cabin is quite large, there is a lot of space. Each seat has a pitch of approximately 32-33" which is generous as compared to Air New Zealand's competitors on the route. In addition, the cabin feels very bright and airy thanks to the overhead storage bins which drop-down from the ceiling and contemporary LED lighting. You'll also find there are five washrooms; two in the middle, and three at the back.
If you're in the Skycouch row, flight attendants will come and explain how to work the seats and distribute special seat-belts that you can use when lying down once you are airborne. It is worth mentioning that you can also view this information at any time via the special Skycouch information card which is located within the seat pocket.
Each seat features a very responsive 10.6” setback touch screen and on-demand in-flight entertainment system with over 500 hours worth of movies, TV shows, documentaries, audio and games to choose from.You will also find an in-seat power an USB port which is perfect for charging your laptop, iPad, Kindle or any other device you have with you, so long as you activated flight mode prior to departure. Note that some rows of three will share two power ports.
You'll find a small pillow, blanket and headphones waiting for you at your seat, If you're in need of some amenities then you'll be happy to know that you can request a toothbrush, toothpaste, eye mask and/or earplugs through the in-flight entertainment system during the flight or by simply asking the flight attendants.
On Air New Zealand, you can also order drinks and snacks from the "in-flight kitchen" in-between meal times. Additional highlights of the IFE include a detailed destination section, TripAdvisor application, seat-chat messaging service and the opportunity to participate in a survey relating to your in-flight experience.
After stowing away my things, it was time to push-back and ascend into the clouds above London.
Once we had reached our cruising altitude, I was handed a Skycouch seat-belt pack from one of the flight attendants; whom provided me with a brief overview on how to operate the leg rests; which was actually fairly simple. The crew member was incredibly friendly and was always popping by to see how I was.
Prior to the dinner service, the crew passed through distributing arrival documents for the USA and offering iced water with lemon.
The Dinner Service
Air New Zealand pride themselves on offering delicious food from sustainable resources, regardless of where you are seated on board the aircraft. Internationally-acclaimed chef Peter Gordon sits on the airline's Culinary Team and I've always found the food to be of a very high standard.
During the meal service you can choose from a selection of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, including a selection of fine New Zealand and international wines. Tea and coffee is served at the conclusion of the meal.
The menu in Economy on my particular flight (NZ1 on March 9, 2016) was as follows:
Warmed bread roll & butter
The Main Event
Sun-dried tomato chicken with mashed potato and green beans
Beef madras curry with basmati rice and peas
Cheddar cheese and crackers
I opted for the Beef Madras, which I found it to be a little bit spicy. Thankfully the ice cream which followed helped to me to cool down.
Overall I thought the meal choice and the quality was very good, something of which I have rarely said about an airline before.
During the flight
Following dinner I decided to watch a couple of movies on the recently updated in-flight entertainment system which I found to be incredibly responsive, and there was more than 500 hours worth of movies, tv shows, audio and games to enjoy including many blockbusters that you may have only seen in the cinema a few weeks before. Star Wars: The Force Awakens anyone?
A couple of hours later and I was starting to feel tired which meant it was time to put the Skycouch to the test. One of the good things about the Skycouch is that you don’t have to have all the leg rests up at once (or on the same level), unless you want to lie fully flat, that is. So I notched seats A and B up to a 90 degree angle and snuggled down. I fell asleep within ten minutes or so and absolutely loved it. Comfortable, Spacious and Brilliant spring to mind.
Following my afternoon nap I thought I would try out the on-demand drinks and snacks service; which is available in-between meal times on the flight. As I mentioned earlier, you are able to order soft drinks, teas, coffees, and a selection of alcoholic beverages and snacks using the easy-to-use in-flight entertainment system. Once you place your order, it will be brought to your seat within a matter of minutes by the flight attendants. For the purposes of this review I timed it and on average received my order within three and a half minutes, which is incredibly efficient.
For younger travellers, Air New Zealand offer some great features seat-back TV there is a special area just for them. The young or young at heart can play fun games, watch family-friendly movies, TV shows and documentaries and listen to music. There is even a dedicated Disney section for all those Mouseketeers out there.
Approximately 90 minutes prior to landing a light snack was served which consisted of the following:
Chilled fruit salad
Cheese and Pickle
Warmed scones served with strawberry jam and clotted cream.
Once again the meal came with a selection of hot and cold drinks from the bar.
A lot of people seem to think the scones served on-board a flight can be quite doughy. I can confirm this was not the case on this occasion, and the chilled fruit salad was very refreshing.
As we were nearing the city of Angels, I selected the Airshow function on the in-flight entertainment system and kept an eye on our progress; seeing as we flew fairly close to Grand Canyon and Las Vegas; two of the many destinations that is on my ever growing bucket list. Shortly afterwards, we were on our final descent into Los Angeles and soon enough it was time to gather my things and begin my adventure in Los Angeles.
Throughout any flight I tend to jot down some notes about my experience; below are some from this particular experience:
- The first meal is served from the front to the rear of the Economy cabin.
- For the second service, the service is reversed to operate from the rear to the front.
- In-between meal times the crew passed through the cabin offering iced water every thirty minutes.
- The "in-flight kitchen" where you can request drinks and snacks was available for approximately 5-6 hours of the flight.
- The flight attendants were extremely friendly and responded to any requests in a timely manner.
- They were always polite and were keen to engage in conversation with passengers.
Overall I was extremely impressed with the Kiwi-style service an on board experience by Air New Zealand. The Skycouch is certainly an innovative and popular product which I am happy to have experienced.
If you can't afford to experience the lie-flat seats in Business Premier; then the Skycouch is a fantastic option at an affordable price.
So in all, would I recommend the Economy Skycouch to a single, business-traveller, couple or small family looking to fly between London, Los Angeles and Auckland? Without a doubt.
*This review has been updated in March 2016.