|by Jason Steele|
Air New Zealand got a lot of press out of their recent announcement that their latest aircraft would be delivered with an entirely new economy interior. Their new economy class would feature a “Sky Couch” that would turn an ordinary row of three seats into a single bed. This would be accomplished by folding the arm rests up and raising a padded section where one’s legs would normally be. I am sure you are probably thinking back to a time where you flew an uncrowded plane and were able to achieve this lie flat effect on your own. What Air New Zealand has done was to make this arrangement something they could sell, and good for them. The way it goes is that two people can the third seat for a reduced price.
Not All Is Good At The Back Of The Plane
While any improvement in economy class comfort is to be commended, there are some serious problems with other aspects of their new cabin. They have added a new, state of the art personal entertainment system to each seat in coach. Sadly, they have stuck hardware for these systems where your feet normally go. Even worse, this article describes the equipment as “enormous, sharp-edged boxes”. The first time I flew in an aircraft with entertainment equipment in the footwell, I was pissed. I value my space, and I felt like I got ripped off.
It gets worse from there. The aircraft that are receiving this new interior is their 777-300. Normally, economy class in a 777 has 9 across seating configured 3-3-3, or occasionally 2-5-2. Those dang Kiwis though it would be a good idea to go 3-4-3 for ten abreast seating normally seen in the wider 747. The result is both narrower seats and narrower aisles. Take a look at this picture. It appears as if many people will not be able to walk down the aisle without turning sideways, and forget rolling your carry-on! Even worse, anyone sitting on the aisle can expect to be bumped, rubbed, and elbowed by passengers squeezing by during the entire flight.
Who Else Is Doing This?
For the moment, there are not many carriers going to 10 abreast on the 777. Some are doing the equivalent on the 767 by going 8 abreast. The only real way to find out is by consulting Seat Guru. Air France and KLM are some of the offenders who have gone to 10 abreast on the 777.
So, as usual, smart travelers will consult a seat chart like the ones at Seat Guru before booking their tickets. Airlines are introducing more innovative products, but not all of these features are designed to increase passenger comfort.