Take a look inside Air New Zealand’s unique Cabin Innovation Lab | So Good News


Air New Zealand is not the world’s largest airline or the world’s most influential airline. However, as a carrier that operates a large proportion of long-haul flights alongside its domestic network, it often has to be creative. Therefore, it has opened an innovative niche among its peers.

The need for this creativity is related to geography. A flight to New Zealand can be terrifyingly long for passengers, especially the vast majority who travel by coach.

Air New Zealand has developed some unique in-flight products to make long-haul flights more attractive. In addition, the airline has a dedicated high-performance team that develops these products in a unique studio.

Earlier this fall, after the airline’s inaugural flight to Oakland from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), I had the opportunity to tour Hangar 22, the airline’s innovation lab.

David Slotnick/The Points Guy

Despite its name, Hangar 22 isn’t actually inside a hangar. Located in an unassuming office building on a side street in downtown Oakland, a few blocks from the central business district, the lab is behind locked doors and generally has strict protocols for visitors (a large “no photos” sign on the wall).

David Slotnick/The Points Guy

Once you’re inside, it’s a casual, open-plan office with standard amenities and a great coffee machine (the barista makes quality flat whites, as I discovered).

In Hangar 22, the airline is designing everything from new catering services, menu items and types of plates and tableware – to new business class seats, to completely unique, sleep-friendly hard products for the economy cabin.

The airline offers the “Skycouch” on its popular carriages, which allows passengers to purchase a full row of carriage seats and raise the leg rest to turn them into a sofa, perfect for sleeping or lounging. These seats cost extra, but they are still significantly less than the cost of a business class seat.

David Slotnick/The Points Guy

The Skycouch may sound obvious, but it’s a difficult idea to implement and must consider safety, economy and fuel efficiency factors.

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Launching Air New Zealand’s next economy product will be even more challenging and even more innovative.

In early 2020, the airline introduced the Skynest design, a six-berth compartment that can be placed in the rear of the cabin. It will be small and tight, but it will allow up to six passengers at a time. to close the eyes for several hours. Once certified and installed, the plan is to offer it in four-hour chunks to six passengers at a time for an additional fee.

Although the airline first announced plans for Skynest two years ago, the airline did not have a working prototype capsule until this year.

David Slotnick/The Points Guy

In the back corner of Hangar 22 is a small, partitioned room made of plywood, clapboards and blackout curtains.

In this room you will find the first mock-up of the new Air Zealand cabin, with scale replicas of its new business class seats, as well as premium economy and coach cabins.

At the very back of the ‘cabin’, next to the coach seats, is the Skynest prototype.

David Slotnick/The Points Guy

For someone like me who can’t sleep while sitting up, the value here is immense. It also makes New Zealand a viable destination. Otherwise, my options are to pay for business class (I can’t afford or find that award), or stay awake for 30 hours and hope I can sleep through the afternoon on the other side.

It may take a while before Skynest is ready to fly. For now, Hangar 22 has a mock-up.

The office looks like something you might see in an architectural firm or advertising agency. It has an open-concept design, with several desks and tables, as well as pictures, charts and sketches adorning the walls. There is a general, informal, creative vibe.

David Slotnick/The Points Guy

Most airlines have product teams that focus on cabin design and service offerings—everything from seat materials to in-flight entertainment to food service flow.

David Slotnick/The Points Guy

However, Air New Zealand’s hangar is unique in its single-purpose design, as well as its focus on customer experience and privacy. It made walking through the space special.


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