The Skycouch is a new and revolutionary way for passengers to travel in Economy. The idea lets passengers treat the three seats and a couch / bed by lifting the footrests into a horizontal position. The design of the Skycouch means that no more space is used up in Economy Class. This means that just as many seats are available to be sold either as normal seats or the Skycouch 3 seat combo. By allowing the foot rests to become part of the couch / bed, passengers are able to adopt more positions throughout the flight. This means that the design is more ergonomically suited to our, as a human, needs. The upright chairs allowed for little or no movement. It is also a very good example of innovative thinking and the process to certification.
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In aviation, everything has to be certified to be say. This means that not only does the design itself have to be checked but every potential component right down to the last nut and screw. Each component is tested to breaking point to find out if it meets the necessary stress requirement. The series of tests simulate the worse case scenarios, generally taken from known bad conditions that aircraft have experienced in the past. The design itself has to prove to be safe to. In terms of the Skycouch, the possible positions of passengers were run through simulation to determine what would happen in accidents of many kinds. These simulations are processed through a computer using algorithms to show what happens to the passengers during abnormal conditions and possible injuries. For this design, it showed that having the passengers that are lying down was safer in turbulence than in a conventional aircraft seat1. Once the design has been proved to work, there is a mock design made up (prototype), where people can actually use it. During this time, a group was given a chance to use the prototype and give feedback. The idea was to show if there was anything that the design group missed, for example possible positions or show areas where people might injure themselves. It also gives a chance to determine if the idea will work practically from feedback of users and to watch the prototype in action.
So far the design has been approved for 3 of Air New Zealand’s Boeing 777-319ER and is be to used by passengers. Part of the approval means that Air New Zealand must report back every flight. With the Skycouch being a world first, it is understandable that there is this trial period to understand the full implications.
Along with the change to the footrests, there have also been changes to the back of the seat to include a trinket tray inside the screen rest, a drink holder on gimbals (allows for the front seat to move its backrest without fear of slipping the drink) and connectivity for some media playing devices. Also there are seatbelts available for passengers to remain in the couch / bed position1.
The cost of one of these Skycouchs is about the same prices as a single seat in business class. This means it is not a cheap replacement for those in business class who wish to use this as a cheap replacement but it is however, a viable opportunity for a small family or couple who wish to fly in more comfort. During the peak periods the Skycouch will cost about 4,900 pounds to fly from London to Auckland2 .
One of the main advantages is more freedom of movement for passengers. This means that the restrictions of conventional seats, only being able to stay upright, will be less if passengers choose to upgrade. For a couple or small family (two adults, one child) the Skycouch offers them a chance to fly in similar style to business, without the extra cost. It may also provide some health benefits due to the extra freedom of movement. For example deep pain thrombosis, may be reduced due to the ability to lie flat3.
This design has added to the already vast experience of Air New Zealand in being the innovative thinkers and leading the world in aviation. The Skycouch leads the way in changing air travel for passengers, even cattle class. With the process of adding or changing designs on aircraft, understanding some of the examples helps bring new ideas forward. If other airlines follow suit, it may lead to changes in the dynamics of economy class. There are a number of steps that help finish product design and execution. One key factor is Leadership, AirNZ lead the way with design changes and show strong leadership in the industry4.
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