Rob Fyfe mentions some airlines are toying with economy class bunks. It is something that AirNZ has to make work if we are to attract increasing numbers of tourists to New Zealand. The space of an economy class seat is used poorly right now, but a combination bunk and perhaps stand up seat for landing/taking off would solve for the issue of comfort and safety.
To be clear – most of the FAA mandated safety requirements are indeed bunk – three examples are flotation devices, safety messages and banning cell phones.
Flotation devices are useless as big jets that crash into the water do not generate survivors, or only would on take-off and that would not give enough time for passengers to put on life vests.
Safety messages are too long and boring – aimed at infrequent travellers. Airlines should be allowed to be far more creative on what and how they deliver messages, and passengers should be randomly tested on the results for airline FAA certification. A one-message 20 second reminder is far more effective than a droning lecture. (I’d love to see results of tests of passengers on safety knowledge right now – frightening)
Cell phones on airplanes resulted in the only bright light on 911 – banning them for no definable safety reason is insulting to those involved.
But back to economy seats. The economy seats will need to be convertible to bunks and work/play stations. Why not also make seats movable (on tracks and with swivels), so you can get groups together easily? Why not also make quiet zones (Virgin does this in upper class) for those that are making bunks, and loud zones (stand up only?) for those that want to booze? Why have them convertible – why not just a mix of different types of seats and you choose before or during flight? Gee – you could even rent the bunks by the hour, letting two people each get 6 hours of sleep on a 14 hour flight. Why not do that with business class right now? Imagine waking up refreshed after a relaxing sleep in business class and being offered $1500 to swap seats for 6 hours with a chap in premium economy…. or being in economy class hell on the way to a critical meeting and being able to buy your way out…
While we are at it, why not charge for total volumetric mass, as they do with freight? The idea is to approach the true cost of the mass and volume of the customer + all luggage.
For example I may choose to bring 2 suitcases weighing 30 Kg, and I weigh another 80Kg, so that is 110kg. However I take up a, say, 2 x 1.2 = 2.2m^2 compartment + my share of the aisle + I need human comfortable conditions (and bedding), while my luggage takes up just 1.5m^2 and can sit in the hold. So there should be some sort of simple scale – choose your luggage based on a cost/Kg, and choose your accommodation based on size. After that choose your food and service.
Anyway – why should I pay for food on my ticket? Surely I can pay on board, as with trains and boats (and Jet Blue)? Actually boats are a good way to think about the future of airlines. Overnight boats can have everything from suites to bunks and campers on the deck.
Air New Zealand international is lucky enough to be in prime position to be among the first to solve these issues. If they can then expect more travelers, more income and NZ can expect more inbound tourism dollars.