What’s it really like to use an Air New Zealand Skycouch?
Article contributed by Jennifer from Backyard Travel Family, Active Family Travel Specialists in New Zealand
When my boys were 18 months old and 3.5 years old, I flew from Christchurch, New Zealand to Washington DC, USA, by myself. A trip to visit the grandparents was on the cards and I really wanted to stay longer than two weeks. So I chose to take the kids by myself, and my husband would meet us later and we would all come home together.
This was my second transatlantic flight by myself and I figured… If it all turns pear-shaped, at least we have extra hands for the flight home right? Everyone thought I was a bit crazy, but I was pretty confident it would work.
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Flying as a solo parent on Air New Zeland
I backpacked my 18-month-old in my Ergobaby carrier and my 3.5-year-old managed to walk through all the airports and connections while pulling my carry on luggage. I had another small over the shoulder bag as well, but we were pretty light on gear.
The flight path was Christchurch – Auckland – Houston – Washington DC and totalled over 22 hours. We flew Air New Zealand for the first two flights and a partner airline for the domestic American flight. Air New Zealand was definitely the pick of the bunch with these flights.
We chose Air New Zealand for a number of reasons
- Quality: Being our local carrier that we fly on domestically all the time, we trust them and they are known for being family-friendly
- Flight Route: The long haul flight from Auckland to Houston was around 15 hours and I preferred this route to a flight via California, as it makes the last flight around 5 hours instead of 2 hours. The theory was that if the kids sleep a good chunk of the flight, then they will still have time to play and watch tv. Therefore the last flight is an easy two hours or so. And I was right. I was perfect!
- The Skycouch: Air New Zealand have an awesome option for the Skycouch, meaning the kids could lie down and sleep. This was a huge selling point for us.
- Prices were comparable to other flights.
Booking with Air New Zealand
We booked our flight online, directly through the Air New Zealand website. Booking directly means you can choose your Skycouch seat, as well as use your Airpoints Dollars if you have them.
Booking a Skycouch, is a little more difficult. When the flight options pop up, it will say underneath if a Skycouch is available, but you cannot find out the price of this option or actually select it, until you get to choosing your seat. This will mean you have to put in all your passenger details before you get this choice.
We booked 1 adult and 2 child seats in a Skycouch row, and paid an extra $200NZD to access the Skycouch. You can book a Skycouch even with one person, however, the price will change for effectively booking the extra seats too, so it will vary depending on how many people you are booking in.
Besides this, booking was an easy process. We use POLi internet banking to avoid credit card fees which were around NZD $17.50 per ticket when we booked.
Looking at flying alone with your kids? See our top tips for travelling as a solo parent
Air New Zeland’s Airpoints Programme and Lounge Access
We are part of the Air New Zealand Airpoints programme through our credit card. One of the benefits is that we often receive complimentary lounge passes, which are amazing when travelling with kids. Very young kids are free so we only had to use 2 passes to access the Air New Zealand Koru Lounge.
I love that the kids can choose their own dinner and we can pop our bags down without wondering if anyone is going to take them. You have access to food, wine, coffee, luxurious toilets with showers (great if there is one of “those” nappy changes) and free wifi so we really try to save our lounge passes for international travel.
In fact, I would say these are a must if you have a longer connection time. You would probably spend a large amount of money on food and drinks while waiting, so this can be good value.
The one issue we had with using the lounge this time was that it took a long time to get through security and we didn’t have very much time to enjoy it. We were also there at peak dinner time and it was super busy, meaning there wasn’t a lot of room for the kids to move around and finding a seat was more difficult too. I do believe this area has been upgraded so hopefully this problem of space has been resolved.
Auckland International Airport
On the scale of things, Auckland International Airport is not very large, however, it is New Zealand’s largest. The one thing you will often have to do is transfer to the domestic airport, which is either a free 5-minute bus ride, or a 15-minute walk, following the painted line on the footpath. This isn’t difficult, but you do need to factor in the time to do this.
Auckland Airport is easy to negotiate, people are happy to help and you shouldn’t have any bothers at all here. One thing to note is that there are no family lines through customs, immigration etc. Perhaps it’s the kiwi way of thinking of everyone being equal, or our “take down the tall poppy” culture, but kiwis like to think that everyone is the same and no one is better than anyone else.
Growing up in New Zealand, I think the same, however travelling to the USA really changed my tune on this. Seeing the difference it can make to help families with young babies get through faster really opened my eyes to the empathy we could have for others. I would happily let someone skip the line now, knowing their child probably needs a feed, or a nappy change, or are just that exhausted. My experiences with other airlines makes me really think that New Zealand should step up here.
Those with children, will get priority boarding with most airlines, fortunately, including Air New Zealand. This gives you plenty of time to get organised and not have to rush while everyone else is getting on the plane. Also a lifesaver if you have a lot of bags, and making sure you get them in the overhead compartments near you.
The Air New Zealand Skycouch
So what is the Skycouch?
A Skycouch can turn your 3 seats into a bed. The extended leg rest under your feet pops up with a button and makes a flat bed. The Skycouch doesn’t come up all at once, which is great as I could still have legroom, while the kids had theirs up and slept. You can add a mattress topper, pillows and blankets which all make for a comfortable experience. If only I could have had one to myself!
The Skycouch Experience
The Skycouch worked really effectively for our family. Just after takeoff, the air hostess showed us how to use it, and extra belts were provided for sleeping (they are longer and hook in differently, making it easier to sleep in).
We had access to blankets and pillows and the kids thought it was great that they had a bed on the plane. I sat on the aisle and the kids had the other two seats. Originally I thought it would be better for them to sleep side by side, with both their heads next to the window, effectively sharing a bed. But I found they flailed their arms and rolled into each other, so I moved them back into their original seats and put the armrest down to separate them. They happily slept curled up. I brought along their sleeping bags and dummies to help ensure similar patterns to home.
My 3-year-old slept from 9.15pm until 2am, sat up with me for an hour and watched my tv, then went back to sleep until 7am. My 18-month-old eventually fell asleep on my lap about 11pm and slept until 6am. So they did get a decent stretch, so I couldn’t really complain.
In the morning the Skycouch was great as they could play with their toys without them falling off the seat and losing them. This happens a lot. The fact they could move around a little meant they didn’t feel so confined and made for a much happier experience.
The one thing I didn’t like about the Skycouch was that sitting as an adult, you couldn’t tuck your feet up behind you. I get restless legs a wee bit and I hated not being able to put my legs behind. It’s something that I never really thought about, and didn’t really I know that I did until I wasn’t able to. So I would never book a seat in a skycouch row for general seating because this was a real pain.
There isn’t really enough room for an adult to lie down with more than one child, although on the flight home, I did get a lie down while one child sat on my husband’s lap across the aisle. You can’t really stretch out, but you can tuck yourself up and get a good sleep (if you were by yourself or just had one child).
Was it worth it?
For an extra $200 and travelling by myself, I think this was money well spent. I’m not sure how I would entertain two toddlers for 15 hours if they were awake and grizzly. If only I was a better sleeper on a plane, then perhaps I would have had more than an hour or two sleep too.
Flight experience with Air New Zealand
Service on Air New Zealand
The staff were friendly and helpful. We didn’t need any particular help and had no issues so I can only report good things
Meals on Air New Zealand
We had dinner, breakfast and snacks on this flight. The dinner was served extremely promptly. Our 7.30pm flight served dinner within 45 minutes of departure and lights were off and the plane was in “sleep mode” just after 9pm. I was actually quite impressed at how quick the dinner service was.
Kids meals were served first and these were good, however, our kids had already had dinner in the Koru Lounge, so they didn’t eat it all. They did, however, find room for the New Zealand icecream.. Funny that?
Breakfast was fairly standard, however, the kids had no choices so had eggs for breakfast, whereas my meal came with yoghurt and a muffin as well. I really wish there were options for yoghurt and that easy food, as I’m sure not many kids have a cooked breakfast very often.
For kids to have a general routine, I think easy things such a cereal, yoghurt, fruit, a bread roll etc would have been much more useful. But that could just be my kids. The meal itself was normal western breakfast, they just weren’t that into it. (Note: I’m never excited by airplane food, the one thing I hate about flying)
If you need any other snacks or drinks on the flight, you can order them on your entertainment screen. Literally, with a click of a button, you can choose your order and they are delivered promptly. It’s great not to have to press the loud caller button in the middle of the night or have to leave your seat to find someone.
Overall experience on Air New Zealand
I would definitely recommend flying Air New Zealand again. The addition of the Skycouch meant the kids had a good night sleep and were fresh enough to take their 3rd flight in 24 hours. I appreciated the friendliness of the staff and the fact it was just an easy experience. We had no problems at all and will be flying with them again.
Thanks to Jen for sharing her Skycouch experience with us. Definitely a change for the good in the airline industry attempting to make long-haul air travel more comfortable. You can follow more of Jen’s family adventures in New Zealand here:
Have you ever flown with the Skycouch? We’d love to hear about your experience and any tips for fellow family travellers
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Disclosures: All opinions expressed are those of the guest author. Information on Air New Zealand’s Skycouch correct at time of publishing September 2019. This page contains affiliate links that may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you. You can read our full disclosure policy here.