Malaysian low cost airline AirAsia has announced that it is to introduce lie-flat beds on its long-haul services.
AirAsia X, the airline's long-haul operator, will introduce lie-flat beds on its Kuala Lumpur to UK and Australia routes, making it the first low-cost airline to offer such an option. To make the space, the airline will scrap the premium economy class on board its A330 aircraft, offering 12 business class seats instead.
AirAsia promises that it will offer a full lie-flat bed seat for the price similar to other legacy carriers' economy seat. One plane has already been fitted with the new cabins, whilst the rest of the fleet is due to be retrofitted by June 2010, the airline confirmed.
"The free-flowing champagne, five-star cuisine and lounge does not justify the thousands of dollars more charged in a normal business class fare," said the airline's boss Azran Osman-Rani in a blog post. "We felt [that what] people wanted most was a comfortable seat."
In a more controversial move, AirAsia will also remove the in-flight entertainment systems from seat backs, citing the additional cost of operating a system showing Hollywood content and the weight added. Instead, portable units will be offered to travelers to rent from mid-2010.
With a dramatic decrease in the number of first-class passengers, airlines have been forced to choose between augmenting economy seats or stripping down premium services to reduce costs. Earlier this month, Air New Zealand announced that it was to offer fully flat beds in economy class, becoming the first airline to debut a "Skycouch" seat that transforms into a bed. Qantas has also announced that it is to slash its first class capacity on long-haul routes.