Winston Aldworth flies from Auckland to Tokyo on NZ95.

The plane:

A Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. The black one, in fact. The first of every fleet is painted black and (as all regular

Flight Check

readers - hi Mum and Dad! - will know) I was there in Seattle when this puppy rolled out of the Boeing paint hangar. Always get a buzz when I see it.


The seat: Economy Skycouch. I've flown on Air New Zealand's Cuddle Class twice previously - once with my kid and once on my own - but this was the first time I'd settled in with a grown-up, my long-suffering partner, Louise.

Skycouch, in case you missed the news, is Air New Zealand's way of folding up the footrest in a row of three seats along the side of the cabin to make a small bed in Economy Class.

I'm a keen student of Skycouch. Ever since I first flew it, I've watched to see how other passengers have used it in various configurations of adults and children. (Kudos, by the way, to the noticeably short American family of four who I saw making it work like a mixture of Twister and human-Jenga en route to LAX.)

There are two classic approaches for a couple using Skycouch: Spooning (if you don't know how that works then you've gone too long without a cuddle) and one-up-one-down (basically, I sit in the aisle seat and my travel buddy stretches out, feet in my lap), add a third person (a child) and you'll do a mixture of spooning and O-U-O-D.

Spooning's good for Louise and me for a couple of hours; we work with a mixture of the two classic positions.

Price: One-way Economy Class fares start from $609 for travel between May 10 and June 29. The Economy Skycouch starts from an additional $599 (based on two people travelling). Flights from Auckland to Narita are daily, increasing to 10 times a week over peak season. From July, the three extra services (which depart at a different time) will land at Haneda Airport, which is actually handier to Tokyo.

Flight time: We take off at 1am on a scheduled 10-and-a-half-hour flight. We rolled into the gate at Narita about 20 minutes early.

Trick for young players: don't fall into the two-movie trap on this route. You'll only leave yourself five hours for sleep and with such a late take-off you'll need to get a good amount of shut-eye. Hence, I contented myself with one viewing of the new Star Trek flick, and a mere 20 minutes of the compulsory documentary on How To Be A Man, otherwise known as Chasing Great. It was a shame not to see the rest of the Richie McCaw flick, but on the plus side, I dreamed about him for the rest of the flight.

Food and drink: We shared a beef and beans and a presentable chicken dish. I don't know if any of the gazillion airline awards that are out there acknowledge Best Economy Class icecream, but I reckon Air New Zealand's Kapiti would be a winner.

Service: A happy mob. This would be a pleasant run for the crew as it's such a good flight for passengers to get some sleep.

Toilets: Tidy throughout and featuring the cool butterfly print on the walls. I prefer this one to the one with the toilet-humour bookcase.

Butterfly print on the toilet wall of an Air New Zealand. Photo / Winston Aldworth
Butterfly print on the toilet wall of an Air New Zealand. Photo / Winston Aldworth

Airport experience:

This is among the last flights to depart for the evening, so she's a quiet old Koru Lounge.

In a nutshell: I'm a fan of the Skycouch. It achieves the holy grail of Economy Class airline travel: a flat bed in the cheap seats. Our trip to Tokyo made perfect use of Skycouch as a launch pad for a short break in what should be a long-haul destination.

With airfares so low at the moment - wise folk are calling this the Golden Age of Travel - Kiwis are flying to what used to be long-haul cities to take short-term breaks. Los Angeles is the new Sydney; Buenos Aires the new Melbourne.

We were able to sleep well on the plane, arrive in the morning and check into our hotel before midday. With a departing flight in the evening, we got a full four days in the Japanese capital, with just three nights at our hotel - sleeping soundly on the plane either end and returning straight to work on landing at home. A great result.

The Auckland-to-Tokyo route is perfect for Skycouching your way to a fantastic long weekend in one of Asia's most remarkable cities.