The Future of Lie-Flat Economy Seating

While some in the Chinese airline industry are talking about standing room only “seating”, frequent flyers over on FlyerTalk are discussing the possibilities of lie-flat seating in economy class.

Brko initiates the discussion thusly:

I’ve never heard of bunk bed style passenger areas even being considered, so I assume it’s utterly impractical. Is it because most people don’t want to lie down during a flight? Or does it actually take up more space? I suppose safely getting people food and security concerns during flights also plays a factor.

While, as tlott points out, Air New Zealand currently offers a SkyCouch option (essentially turning three economy-class seats into a couch), others opine that the main drawback to lie-flat seating in economy is, as one might expect, cost.

Airlines have a hard time selling 2 rows of E+ for a few bucks more. The overwhelming majority of Coach passengers will choose lower cost over comfort. ~Tchiowa

I can’t see the airlines being keen on it – it would totally cannibalise J class offerings. ~Scots_Al

In an era when people question whether it’s worth $149 for E+ on UA TPAC (basically extra leg room and nothing else), could you really sell Y-BUNK for $1,500 on that route? ~Often1

Based on these comments, it might seem fair to assume we will never see lie-flat options in coach on most airlines. Then again, as zkzkz adroitly observes, lie-flat in business-class didn’t used to be common either:

The natural expectation then is that an upstart like Norwegian would try it out and push the rest of the industry to follow. That’s exactly what Virgin did and how we got lie flat seats in business when the major carriers were afraid of cannibalising their F product.

Though not impossible, lie-flat economy-class seats certainly seem unlikely in the near term.

Having said that, I would be interested to hear opinions from travelers who have enjoyed Air New Zealand’s SkyCouch. Was it significantly better? How much more were you willing to pay for it?

And hypothetically, if airlines began offering SkyLoveSeats (two seats together that could be turned into a mini-couch), might there be an audience?

Read the thread in its entirety: What makes a lie-down economy class impractical?

Air NZ Skycouch” by Roderick Eime. CC BY 2.0.


  1. The advantage of the lie flat economy is that the companies can still sell every seat separately.

    Meanwhile a family (let’s think 1 adult and 2 kids) can definitely have a better experience without any cost increase from the company side.

    Brazilian Airline “Azul” is about to implement the economy lie flat in their recently acquired A330 (flying from Campinas-VCP to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando).

  2. I think you misread. This isn’t lie flat for an adult. Look at the dimensions. Unless you are very short your feet are going to be sticking out in the aisle. A normal adult would have to sleep on their side in a fetal position.

    Where it works good is a parent travelling with 1 or possible 2 small children. Elevate 2 of the footrests, a 2 and 3 year old say can sleep on that small space. Leave your own footrest down and recline.

    It costs the airline very little to equip these seats. IMO they will mostly be purchased by parents with one child, who will pay the upcharge to essentially buy the middle seat. I plan to do exactly this on a future flight to New Zealand from SFO.

    Otherwise they can just sell these seats as standard economy, and if you wind up in one you can choose if the footrest add anything to your ride or not. So I don’t see how they can lose anything by it.

  3. New Zealand calls it SkyCouch. China Airlines calls it Family Couch, which should tell you who it’s intended for. People with small children.

    Couch to most people is something long enough to sleep on with head and foot room to spare. This is closer to love seat length. Would you imagine sleeping on a love seat? Nope. That is why they shy away from any marketing terms that evoke images of the lie-flat in first, which this isn’t.

    Yes I’ve been researching this the past few days as an element of family air travel. For me, it’d be a godsend if every transoceanic overnight flight had them, we’d pay the upcharge every time.

  4. One last thought. For those who disparagingly mutter about “breeders” cluttering up your planes, these are equipped in confined sections. On NZ it’s both sides of front coach of 777. With CI it’s only the right side of the front coach cabin. So if you’ve wished for a NO KIDS section of the plane, now it’ll be somewhat more likely rear cabin will be quiet.

  5. All great points Vicente, thank you for sharing all of the information you learned. I would, however, still categorize these couches as lie-flat, even for adults. They aren’t lie-flat-and-fully-extended, I will grant you that. But I have been known to frequently fall asleep on a love seat, usually while watching a movie any time after 7 p.m. So, as long as the IFE is working, I’d bet I could make it work 🙂

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