Air New Zealand’s new Boeing 777-300ER with sleeper seats touches down in Los Angeles

Special to the Los Angeles Times

Who knew Santa had a workshop in Seattle? On Wednesday, Boeing elves delivered Air New Zealand’s first Boeing 777-300ER passenger jet, which departed Seattle, with a stop in Los Angeles, for Auckland, New Zealand, where it arrives Friday.

FOR THE RECORD: The headline on an earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the Air New Zealand plane as a 737.

Here’s what’s under the tree for fliers: The first Skycouch seats in the air. These new economy-class seats are equipped with footrests that can be raised to create a sofa-type sleeping surface across three seats. So on a long flight, two people can cuddle while catching 40 winks. Of course, they have to book a third seat to do so, at varying cost.

Starting in January, the airline’s 777-300ERs will be phased in for service from Los Angeles (LAX) They will start on the LAX-Auckland route, and in April they will begin flying regularly on both the LAX-Auckland and LAX-London routes.

During the plane’s layover at LAX, I interviewed Ed Sims, group general manager for Air New Zealand’s international service, by telephone.


Although the Skycouch will be exclusive to Air New Zealand for the next 18 months, more than 30 airlines have expressed interest in licensing the design, Sims said. He added that American carriers are among those expressing interest, but he declined to name any.

Four years ago, Air New Zealand began surveying passengers and flight crews to find ways to improve the long haul-flight experience. The new Boeing jet includes changes in all three classes of service: economy, premium economy and business. Changes are detailed on the airline’s Future Taking Flight website.

Sims said bathrooms in all classes are designed to be more like those in homes, with touches such as windows and bookshelf-themed wallpaper that highlights Kiwi literary gems. (Privacy shouldn’t be an issue at 30,000 feet, I assume.)

Onboard programs will include wine tastings in the front galley and storytelling for children by staff in the rear galley.