Spending a long-haul flight in economy class may not seem very appealing to most people. However, there are a handful of airlines out there that have brought some rather interesting economy seat concepts to the market.
Let's look at the five most interesting airline economy seat concepts. As a disclaimer, these airlines are ranked in no particular order.
Air New Zealand "Skycouch"
The "Skycouch" is Air New Zealand's offering to those desiring a flat-bed experience in coach class. Air New Zealand was the first carrier to introduce this concept, unveiling the Skycouch in 2012. The Skycouch was introduced with Air New Zealand's first 777-300ER. It has since spread across ANZ's entire 777-200ER, 777-300ER, and 787-9 fleets. This offering basically comes as an added extra to the existing economy class seats.
Air New Zealand's 777-300ERs feature a 3-4-3 configuration in Economy Class, while the 787-9 features a 3-3-3 layout. The Skycouch is only available on select sets of three seats. This innovative offering works because certain sets of three seats have larger "footrests," you could say. These fold up to become level with the seat cushion. As such, passengers sitting in these sets of three seats can stretch out however they want.
As you can imagine, the Skycouch was heavily marketed towards families, particularly those traveling with small children. The extra space and ability to lie flat is very appealing as it serves as an easy use of space to allow small children to sleep or move around without disturbing much of the cabin.
While there is not much hype nowadays regarding the Skycouch, it's definitely an innovation in coach-class travel that deserves recognition.
China Airlines "Family Couch" - Discontinued
The "Family Couch" was China Airlines' version of the Air New Zealand Skycouch. The overall design and concept were the same, the only difference being how the airline advertised it. Like Air New Zealand, China Airlines offered this product on its Boeing 777-300ER fleet. They also had the Family Couch on select Airbus A350-900s.
The product was normally found on aircraft flying long-haul routes between Taipei (TPE) and New York JFK, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, and Frankfurt. Regarding the physical product, the Family Couch was identical to the Skycouch as certain sets of three seats had larger footrests that could fold up and provide extra space for passengers seated there.
Unfortunately, China Airlines stopped offering the Family Couch in 2018. The carrier cited low demand and was not impressed overall by how this interesting concept performed on its flights. With China Airlines' Family Couch out of the picture, Air New Zealand is the only airline still offering some sort of proper sleeper or fully flat accommodation in economy class.
EVA Air "Hello Kitty" Aircraft
There is little to report on about interesting economy seats. However, that's not to say there are no interesting economy products on the market. We already covered Taiwanese airline China Airlines, but now let's cover their competitor EVA Air.
EVA Air has long partnered with the "Hello Kitty" brand. As such, a handful of its aircraft features unique liveries to commemorate the partnership. The special liveries are not the only parts of the plane that showcase the Hello Kitty partnership. The interiors of these specific planes have been specially-themed to add a unique Hello Kitty-themed experience to EVA Air passengers.
If a passenger were to fly on one of EVA's Hello Kitty-themed planes, the entire experience would be themed to reflect the partnership. Everything from bag tags to boarding passes is specially themed, starting from the check-in process. Once onboard, the seats and various onboard amenities are also Hello Kitty-themed.
EVA Air makes it quite easy to book this unique economy class experience. The airline has a specific schedule for its various Hello Kitty jets published on its website so passengers can see when certain planes are flying certain routes.
ANA "Star Wars" Aircraft
We covered how EVA Air's Hello Kitty aircraft offers passengers a unique onboard experience. Japanese carrier ANA - All Nippon Airways provides a similar fun experience with its "Star Wars" jet fleet. ANA has a long-standing partnership with the Star Wars franchise. As such, one 777-200ER and one 787-9 are painted in special Star Wars-themed liveries.
The 777 wears a vibrant "C-3PO" livery, and the 787 has the "R2D2" livery. ANA previously had a 777-300ER in the "BB-8" livery and a 767-300ER in a less-exciting "BB-8" livery. Both of those jets have since been retired from service. However, passengers traveling on the "C-3PO" and "R2D2" planes will have unique Star Wars-themed experiences once onboard.
The interiors of these planes are decked out to match the special liveries. Furthermore, the flight crew wears special uniforms to match the theme. Also, the announcement chimes onboard "R2D2", for example, allegedly play the character's trademark beeping noises instead of the usual "ding" heard on most planes.
Emirates Economy Class
It wouldn't be an economy class article without mentioning Emirates. While Emirates has no specially-themed economy cabins, its Economy Class needs no introduction as it is highly regarded. Emirates' newest economy seats are most notable for their huge inflight entertainment screens. These can be found on its latest Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus A380 jets.
While the onboard service in Emirates Economy Class is among the best in the world, one notable aspect of the experience is that on request, passengers can request the flight attendants to take a Polaroid photo to commemorate their experience. Such a feature is unique to Emirates and most definitely standard economy class. While it may seem trivial, going the extra mile to ensure passengers remember the experience is commendable and worth mentioning.
What are your thoughts on these economy class products, and have you experienced any of them? We would love to hear what you have to say!
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