Have a look inside Air New Zealand’s distinctive cabin innovation laboratory

Air New Zealand is just not the world’s largest airline neither is it the world’s most influential airline. Nonetheless, as a service that operates an enormous proportion of long-haul flights alongside a home community, it usually needs to be inventive. That is why it has carved out an revolutionary area of interest amongst its friends.

The necessity for this creativity is pushed by geography. Flights to New Zealand could be intimidatingly lengthy for passengers, particularly for the overwhelming majority who journey in coach.

To attempt to make lengthy flights extra interesting, Air New Zealand has developed a couple of distinctive onboard merchandise. Moreover, the airline has a devoted high-performing workforce that designs these merchandise at a singular studio.

Earlier this fall, following the airline’s inaugural flight to Auckland from New York’s John F. Kennedy Worldwide Airport (JFK), I had the chance to tour “Hangar 22,” the airline’s improvements lab.


Regardless of its title, Hangar 22 is not actually inside a hangar. Nestled away in an unassuming workplace constructing off a facet road in downtown Auckland, a couple of blocks from the central enterprise district, the lab sits behind locked doorways and sometimes has strict protocols for guests (the big “no photographs” signal on the wall is telling).


When you’re inside, although, it is a informal, open-plan workplace with commonplace facilities and a very good espresso machine (one which makes barista-quality flat whites, as I came upon).

At Hangar 22, the airline designs all the things from its new meal companies — such because the menu objects and sorts of plates and utensils — to its new business-class seats to completely distinctive, sleep-friendly exhausting merchandise for its economic system cabin.

The airline famously provides a “Skycouch” in coach, which permits passengers to purchase a whole row of coach seats and lift a leg rest-type machine to show them right into a sofa that is excellent for napping or stress-free. These seats value further, however they’re nonetheless considerably lower than a lie-flat enterprise class seat would value.


The Skycouch might sound apparent, nevertheless it’s a reasonably tough thought to implement and one which has to take security, financial, and gasoline effectivity elements into consideration.

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Air New Zealand’s subsequent economic system product shall be much more difficult to drag off — and much more revolutionary.

The airline unveiled designs for its “Skynest” — a six-bed compartment that may be positioned behind the coach cabin — in early 2020. Will probably be small and tight, however it could enable for six passengers at a time to get a couple of hours of shut-eye. As soon as licensed and put in, the plan is to supply it in four-hour chunks to 6 passengers at a time, for a further charge.

Whereas the airline first introduced the plans for the Skynest two years in the past, it wasn’t till this 12 months that the airline had a working prototype of the capsule.


Tucked into the again nook of Hangar 22, there is a small, subdivided room constituted of plywood, sheetrock and black curtains.

Inside that room, you will discover the primary mockup of the brand new Air Zealand cabin, that includes scale replicas of its new business-class seats, together with a premium economic system and coach cabin.

On the very again of the “cabin,” subsequent to the coach seats, sits the prototype Skynest.


For somebody like me who cannot go to sleep whereas sitting up, the worth proposition right here is immense. It additionally makes New Zealand a extra viable vacation spot. In any other case, my choices are to pay for enterprise class (which I seemingly could not afford or discover the award availability for) or keep awake for about 30 hours and hope I can take an early-afternoon nap on the opposite facet.

It should seemingly be a while earlier than the Skynest is out there to fly. Within the meantime, there’s the mock-up in Hangar 22.

The workplace seems to be like what you may see at an architect’s agency or an promoting company. It has an open-concept design with a couple of desks and tables in addition to renderings, charts and sketches adorning the partitions. General, there’s an off-the-cuff, inventive vibe.


Most airways have product groups that concentrate on cabin design and repair choices — all the things from seat materials to in-flight leisure to the meal service stream.


Nonetheless, Air New Zealand’s hangar is exclusive in its single-purpose design in addition to its concentrate on buyer expertise — and that aura. This made touring the area all of the extra particular.

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