Simon Calder: Lie back and think of Air New Zealand

First or last? In the context of boarding a flight, the right choice depends on the airline you are flying with. On a low-cost carrier with no advance seat selection, first is best: easyJet passengers pay up to £16 return for "Speedy Boarding" ahead of the pack. But on traditional airlines offering pre-assigned seats, being last to walk the airbridge has many virtues.

First, the less time you sit in a cramped airline seat, the better. Being the last one on board minimises that discomfort, though as you saunter smugly down the aisle you may be discomfited by glares from other passengers that say: "Are we waiting for you?"

Next, the later you board, the higher the chance you will discover that your seat is already occupied. In my experience, that can be an advantage: if the cabin crew need to upgrade someone in order to resolve the conflict, more often than not they choose the passenger who is standing. That, however, was not the case earlier this month, when I found seat 4H from Cairo to Heathrow had been double-booked. (To digress for a moment: I even recognised the man who shared the same seat allocation – though I had never seen him with his clothes on. He had been a guest at the Nile Hotel in the Egyptian capital; I hadn't, but I paid to use the pool on a couple of occasions and got chatting, since he was about the only other bather.) On this occasion, though, it was my fully dressed friend who was invited to the front of the plane.

Third, if you know you are the last to board (the ground staff may be yelling at you to that effect), then you are the first to know exactly where the empty seats are. If the travel gods are smiling, you may be able to claim a row of three all to yourself. On a long flight such as Heathrow to Hong Kong or Los Angeles to Auckland, this is worth a fortune.

Business travellers (or their companies) pay high fares for the privilege of a flat bed, but three seats together constitutes an almost-flat makeshift bed for the price of a discounted economy ticket. Great if you travel alone – but many people are less antisocial than I am, and prefer to fly with a companion. If you are in this category, then Air New Zealand has a seductive offer. Forget economy and business: welcome to "Cuddle Class".

Cuddle Class is not the actual name of the service that will soon take to the skies on the airline's latest Boeing 777 aircraft, but it describes the concept concisely. More than half a century after three-abreast seating became common thanks to the Boeing 707, Air New Zealand has come up with a simple piece of kit that effectively moves the footrests up to seat-cushion level, creating a surface the size of a slim single bed. As anyone who has suffered a long flight in economy class will understand, the layout confers a much greater sense of space.

Two become two and a half in terms of fares: the Skycouch, as it is officially known, will be sold to couples with a 25 per cent premium per person. So, if you can find an £800 return from London to Auckland per person, you would pay an extra £200 per person for extra space and privacy. No need to get territorial, either; you own the title to all three seats.

At around £4 per person per flying hour on top of the ordinary ticket, cuddle class has to be one of the best bargains in travel. I imagine Air New Zealand will soon find it can raise the premium. And good luck to the airline for coming up with something genuinely beneficial for the mass of travellers in economy class.

Snuggler's rest – but that's the limit at seven miles high

"The worst year the industry has ever seen" – that was how the airlines' trade association, IATA, summed up 2009 this week. Its director-general, Giovanni Bisignani, warned of "another spartan year" for the world's carriers.

Air New Zealand currently fills an average of four out of five seats: the Skycouch is a neat way to "monetise" space that would otherwise go empty. But the publicity picture shows the layout provides potential for activities other than sleeping.

"Certainly we won't do anything to encourage that," said Ed Sims, the Air New Zealand executive behind the concept.

British snugglers will be able enjoy this economical innovation on flights from Heathrow from April next year.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    Day In a Page

    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
    Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy