Monday, March 1, 2010

On Cloud Nine, Together

Innovation comes from the edge. For most European travellers the edge of the world is New Zealand. That means a 24 hour flight, and there are plenty who don’t want to part with a huge amount of cash for business class – where you can get a real sleep. So congratulations to Air New Zealand for putting on their thinking hats and solving some of the negatives of long haul travel. Skycouches on their new Boeing planes mean that three seats form one bed, with an extra panel raised from the footrest area to give space for two to sleep in what they’re calling “cuddle class”.

Economy/coach class can be a tough ride, so the opportunity to lie flat with your partner and sleep off the miles will be too good to pass up. There’s little mystery on a flight like this, and sensuality takes a back seat unless you’re prepared to pay more, so adding a little bit of intimacy to the mix seems like a great solution to me. You arrive at your destination, not prodded by stranger’s elbows and plenty of sleep interruptions, but after a sleep, a meal, and lesser chance of DVT. It costs a little more, so let’s see how it goes. While Air New Zealand are ahead of the game in solving a long distance issue – there must be plenty of ways other airlines can innovate for shorter flights.

I won’t bother challenging the major US airlines, who need a whole culture change before they can come close to getting this far (JetBlue and Virgin America being honourable exceptions), but I’m sure other carriers can continue to innovate, push the boundaries for economy as well as business and first class. Everyone is on the same plane together! Perhaps they can look at the other innovation from my national carrier – Spaceseats. Two abreast and designed to shape in to allow couples to dine together. You choose – the back of a seat, or at best a small TV screen, or the smile of your loved one facing you. And for those who are not couples, who knows? You might even make a new friend.