i switched from Oslo-Newark-Los Angeles to Oslo-London-Los Angeles primarily to try Air New Zealand (the last segment, which continues on to Auckland), my 21st Star Alliance carrier. i was placed in a “Frequent Flyer” premium seat (red circle) i suppose due to being Star Alliance Gold. in the days leading up to the flight while checking the seat map, i thought about switching to one of the seats up front that has infinite legroom (gray circle), but ultimately didn’t because it would have cost $50.
BUT! being a cheapskate paid off! some rows of the Frequent Flyer block are Skycouch seats, which means that there are legrests that come all the way up to form a large bed-like surface. i wasn’t really sure how it is supposed to work if you have non-friends in the row (i assume you just use the legrests individually, either partially or fully up, just not all three to make a full bed), or, even worse, if they completely locked out the legrest functionality if you didn’t outright pay for Skycouch. as it turns out, though, i had all three seats to myself (oh the anxiety waiting for the doors to close) and the legrests were completely movable.
but first, let me step back a little. the interior of these 777-300s are quite lovely, very modern with a black and white palette and purple mood lighting. the IFE was pretty good as well, with on-demand snack ordering and on-screen menus. they even play music in the lavatories! kia ora indeed!
i also liked this chart which showed what things were available when during the flight:
speaking of the inflight entertainment, i really appreciate how they aren’t afraid to put risque stuff up there. i mean, i should have known when we got the swimsuit edition safety video (though to be honest i only recognized Christy Brinkley) and they even had very minimally edited (as in, i saw allll the thrusting) episodes of Looking available. they do warn you before these R-rated shows that they may not be appropriate for children and to use discretion.
the problem was with the seat pitch and recline, though. maybe it’s because i have been lucky enough to have my most recent long haul economy flights be in United’s Economy Plus, but on this plane, once the passenger in front leans back, the distance between you and the screen is horrible. the screen then doesn’t tilt out far enough, making the picture washed out, so you’re forced to lean back, which makes the person lean back, and so on, like dominoes.
the foot well was also a bit odd, especially in the Skycouch rows. i’m used to tucking my feet under a bit and propping them up on the bar that prevents underseat baggage from going too far forward. however, with the legrests, you’re completely blocked off. my default position was thus impossible.
there are boxes for the inflight entertainment equipment in front of the two seats closest to the aisle. at first i thought they were a pain in the butt but realized they’re actually not too uncomfortable to rest your feet on!
here are the two sides of the Skycouch pamphlet they supply:
couples seated in other rows got the belt kit but i didn’t, and i don’t think i got the full treatment, which may have included a duvet or some sort of pad i saw folded in the overhead compartment — in any case, i was fine with the three blankets and three pillows from the row.
lying down like in the last illustration on the top image is, frankly, impossible unless you can lie flat in a three-seat row. i think you’d have to be quite a bit shorter than i am to manage that (i’m a little bit over 5’8″). i ended up just going in the slightly fetal position, and found that facing backwards with my back almost completely up against the seats in front and my shins at my row’s seat backs. while the armrests do flip up more than normal ones, the hardware used to attach the seatbelts to the seats was quite irritating, stabbing me in the back if i turned around so i faced forward.
here’s one configuration which worked pretty well for me (before i moved to the window), the “i’m going to get some work done facing this way because there’s no room if i face front”:
the most comfortable way to sit, though, was with my back propped up against the wall. definitely a better situation than the people across the aisle! from what i saw in the rows around me, this was how most taller people spent the flight, with the shorter person curled up in the second and third seats. unfortunately the monitors don’t swivel out so you have to twist your upper body around to watch the movie, and there’s no way see the screen while lying down.
so, is it worth it? for just one person, it’s not a significant upgrade from having a row to yourself, although any extra square footage is quite welcome. i’ve been able to sleep well in three-and two-seaters so it’s not really sleeping where you see the most benefit (but again, it’s nice to be able to spread out a bit). it’s thinking horizontally now, instead of vertically. instead of a seat (or two, or tree), you now have a mattress (without any floorspace*), which requires you to contort in slightly odd ways to watch movies, etc. it’s arguably more comfortable than being reclined in a single traditional seat. * it’s actually not a bad idea to lower the legrest on the window seat (if you’re seated there) which gives you more options in case you want to sit upright for a while.
for couples or someone with a small child, i can definitely see the benefit and it might be worth paying for — or hoping you don’t get a third person in the row. me, though, i would have been fine in a regular row with an empty middle. the quality of sleep might have been slightly better but i certainly wouldn’t have shelled out extra money for it. getting a premium economy seat is cheaper, for what it’s worth.
oh yeah, one thing that helped was the three-piece tray table — perfect for when you are sitting slightly angled and have your knees drawn up:
the Skycouch (at least for me) can best be summed up by twitter friend @nonrevadventure. i’m certainly not going to turn it down if serendipitously presented with it again, but i wouldn’t go out of my way to book it.
@jonk What I figured. Great idea, flawed in reality. Hard to make good use of three seats—still too short.
— Bruce Bere (@NonRevAdventure) May 11, 2014