After five long years in incubation Air New Zealand has finally opened the door on their secretive design facility in Māngere, Hangar 22.
On Tuesday the airline invited media to visit their new-look Dreamliner cabins, lie-flat beds and 'skynest' bunks.
Little more than rumour and the odd pixelated seat layout has escaped Hangar 22, since it was launched half a decade ago. We can finally announce Air New Zealand hasn't been snoozing on the job.
In fact they say they've been hard at work perfecting the "best sleep in the sky".
According to airline boss Greg Foran it was time for the New Zealand carrier to claim its place as the leader of long-haul travel. With an average international flight time of over 13 hours, it's arguably what they do best.
"New Zealand's location puts us in a unique position to lead on the ultra-longhaul travel experience." Sleep, he argued, was key to this goal.
Catching 40 winks has been core to every design choice onboard the 787-9 'Dreamliners'.
It has informed all seven new cabin classes and seats for the 2024 cabin designs. Yes, that's right seven - almost double the traditional choice of fares found on Air New Zealand planes.
They range from the self-contained pods of Business Premier Luxe, through the multi-tier bunks of the Skynest through to the new-look skycouch - an economy upgrade that comes in the form of a camp bed that spreads across three seats.
If all that choice gives you anxiety, Air New Zealand says there's plenty of other touches to soothe nervous flyers.
Leanne Geraghty, chief of customer and sales, says the whole experience has been designed to encourage shut-eye.
"From the lighting and sleep ritual including sleepy teas and balms, to the healthier food choices and breathable fabrics," she says.
"We want our customers to experience Aotearoa from the moment they step onboard – and get the best night's rest."
Geraghty say the redesign's sleep-centric focus even extents onto the inflight entertainment screens. While there was little elaboration on this (Could she mean old countryfile re-runs? Counting merino sheep while taxiing to takeoff? ) the were hints that this would involve mindful meditations and "Zentertainment" to help passengers unwind.
Air New Zealand isn't the only airline pivoting to ultra-long haul flight plans, post pandemic.
Qantas hit the snooze button on its Project Sunrise flights following the pandemic. The Aussie carrier is just bringing its 20-hour+ 787 routes out of hibernation, with Perth to Rome taking off this month.
The long awaited Sydney to London and New York direct is expected to launch in the next three years. Concepts for the Aussie approach to the super-long flight time seem to focus more on DVT-busting exercise rather than catching Zs.
Earlier this year Qantas showed designs for stretch-out spaces and midair aerobics.
But Air New Zealand won't be caught sleeping by its competitor. The airline says it will be flying the new cabin classes by 2024, with the delivery of its new Boeing Dreamliners.
By this time the ultra-long 17-hour Auckland to New York service will be two years old and passengers in need of a cabin refresh.
Air NZ's seven cabin classes ranked
One of the few projects revealed earlier in 2020 was the concept for the Economy SkyNest.
The pods of six single sleepers look like the aerospace equivalent of bunk beds - as if Boeing did Doc Huts. With two additional years to perfect the design, it's hard to tell if the skynest the dream solution for jetlag or straight out of cloud cuckoo land. However it's not long before passengers have the opportunity to try it out firsthand.
(Only 550 sleeps 'til takeoff!)
By 2024 Air NZ intends to fit all seven classes in their cabins but how do they stack up?
Business Premiere Luxe
The front of the plane and most premium sleep on the craft, the Business PL is a further compartmentalisation of the premium cabin. There will be up to eight seats per cabin. While Air NZ doesn't have a 'first class' per-se this ultra luxury pod is fully enclosed, with a door and privacy screens. Although, the panelling can be removed, so you and a travel companion can raise a glass to your premium choice of cabin.
Snooze rating: zzzzz
A rethink of Air New Zealand's business class nest - the plane will fly with between 40 and 20 of these pods. The most revolutionary aspect of the relaunched business seats is their rotation to a less drastic angle across the cabin.
This revision of the 'herringbone' seat formation means there's still plenty of extra space, but less eyeballing of other passengers' compartments. Although like Business PL central panelling can be removed to share the experience with another travel partner.
Snooze rating: zzzz
While the business class offerings are exciting, its this economy lie-flat option that is giving us sleepless nights. There is literally nothing like this in the skies. The three-tiered bunkbeds are something we can't wait to try. While it could be considered an upgrade from the skycouch, there are signs it is still a work in progress. There are only six bunks on a plane, suggesting that even Air NZ isn't yet sold on the life flat option yet.
There are still big practical questions to answer for these dorms of the sky.
Like: who snores? Bring noise cancelling headphones.
Snooze rating: z
Another of Air New Zealand's answers to catching sleep in the sky. At $598 per flight, it still feels like a luxury. Although you can share this insertable mattress between you and another economy passenger.
Snooze rating: zzzz
Premium Economy, the cabin class of compromise. Air New Zealand's big pitch is the uninterrupted recline for seats and an upgraded premium economy food and beverage offering.
Snooze rating: zzz
We think this refers to legroom rather than 'how far can we stretch the concept of economy+ cabin class'. Falling somewhere between the economy and premium economy, the additional 10cm in pitch is something Air NZ is confident passengers will pay for.
Snooze rating: zzz
Don't worry! Air NZ hasn't neglected the seats in the back. The upgraded entry-level seats have extra space for storage, by thinning out the seats. They have also found extra room for a larger entertainment system. The new screen is 50 per cent larger than on the current model. That's twice the "Zentertainment" and mindful inflight programming - whatever that is.
Snooze rating: zz