Air New Zealand sells an unusual economy seat that can turn into a couch. Here's why they are bit disappointing but still worth it.

New Zealand Wanaka MountainsNot bad, New Zealand.Zachary Tracer / Business Insider

  • We tried out Air New Zealand's Skycouch on a recent vacation to New Zealand.
  • The Skycouch allows passengers to convert a row of three economy class seats into a flat platform.
  • According to the airline "Skycouch is a great option for families, couples and those just wanting a bit of extra personal space."
  • We thought it would be a cost-effective way to get more space on a long flight.
  • It's not nearly as roomy and comfortable as business class, but it's still a worthy upgrade.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

My wife and I just got back from a two-week trip to New Zealand.

It's a really beautiful country to visit, and I'd definitely recommend going.

The biggest problem? It's hard to get there.

From New York, it'll take you about 20 hours to get to Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city. If you want to explore the glaciers and mountains of the country's south island, add another few hours of travel.

When we were planning our trip, we knew the flights would be a bit tough. Business-class tickets definitely weren't in our budget, and even premium economy seats turned out to be too much of a stretch as they can cost several times as much as a coach seat on long flights.

Air New Zealand, the country's national airline, offers a fun upgrade to make flying in economy class more palatable. It's called the Skycouch. Essentially, you get a row of three economy seats with special leg rests that flip up to make a flat surface on which you can lie down.

Read more: Jet Airways is on the brink of collapse. Here are 5 airlines that have gone bust since October.

This is how Air New Zealand describes the seats on its website: "Create a flat, flexible space for you to enjoy however you like. Skycouch is a great option for families, couples and those just wanting a bit of extra personal space."

The Skycouch is available as an upgrade on top of your standard economy class ticket. The cost of the upgrade varies widely, depending on factors like how long your flight is and whether you've already bought 1 or 2 seats on the flight. For our flights, the total cost for the Skycouch was $400 for the trip from Los Angeles to Auckland and about $450 for Auckland to Houston, Texas.

The airline first demoed the seats in 2010. But I'd never heard of them until we started planning our trip, and I noticed them on Air New Zealand's website.

When I started looking into whether the upgrade was worth it, I came across some positive reviews.

"You don't have to pay for a business-class seat to enjoy business-class comfort," was how Emily McNutt of The Points Guy, a popular credit-card and travel blog, put it. She tested the special seats as a solo traveler - but she also warned that they might be a tight fit for a couple (more on that later).

After doing the research, we decided it'd be worth spending a few hundred dollars for a chance at some sleep on our overnight flight.

Read on to find out why I still think that was the right choice, even though the special seats were a lot less comfortable than we expected.

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I first heard about Air New Zealand's Skycouch while researching my trip. The seats look pretty great on the airline's website.

I first heard about Air New Zealand's Skycouch while researching my trip. The seats look pretty great on the airline's website.

They are available on board the airline's fleet of Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliners.

They are available on board the airline's fleet of Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliners.

The upgrade cost us $400 for our flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, and about $450 for the return trip from Auckland to Houston. That's a lot cheaper than even premium economy seats.

The upgrade cost us $400 for our flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, and about $450 for the return trip from Auckland to Houston. That's a lot cheaper than even premium economy seats.

The cost of the upgrade varies depending on factors like the length of your trip and whether you've already bought one or two seats on the flight.

If you're traveling alone, the upgrade can be a lot more expensive, because you've only purchased one seat on the flight. McNutt said her upgrade cost $1,399, on top of a $1,200 ticket.

The Skycouch seats don't come with a fancy amenity kit or an upgraded meal. But you do get to board the plane early.

The Skycouch seats don't come with a fancy amenity kit or an upgraded meal. But you do get to board the plane early.

Once we boarded, we saw all the extra accessories you get that help you turn your row of seats into a couch (in addition to the standard tiny airplane pillow).

Once we boarded, we saw all the extra accessories you get that help you turn your row of seats into a couch (in addition to the standard tiny airplane pillow).

You get plenty of pillows and blankets, as well as a special cushioned cover for your seats. We piled most of it into one seat before we took off.

This laminated guide shows you how to use your seats. To turn the seats into a mini-bed, you raise special leg rests from the floor.

This laminated guide shows you how to use your seats. To turn the seats into a mini-bed, you raise special leg rests from the floor.

Air New Zealand gives you an instruction booklet, and the flight attendants will help you get settled. Note the warning: when you're lying down, it's easy to end up with your feet sticking out into the aisle.

We also got a special seat belt for when we're lying down, called the Cuddle Belt. Other belts in this kit are for adults with small children.

We also got a special seat belt for when we're lying down, called the Cuddle Belt. Other belts in this kit are for adults with small children.

After several hours of flying, it was time for bed. Here's what our Skycouch looked like when we set it up.

After several hours of flying, it was time for bed. Here's what our Skycouch looked like when we set it up.

The row of airline seats is just over 5 feet long, and 29 inches wide. That's about a foot narrower than a twin bed. And as you can see, if the people sitting in front of you lean their seats back, that cuts into your space.

When we researched the seats before our trip, we saw pictures of couples sharing the Skycouch on Air New Zealand's website. We figured we could make it work. But no matter our position, my wife and I couldn't find a comfortable way to both lie down on the seats. I ended up trying to sleep sitting in one seat, while my wife slept across the other two.

When we researched the seats before our trip, we saw pictures of couples sharing the Skycouch on Air New Zealand's website. We figured we could make it work. But no matter our position, my wife and I couldn't find a comfortable way to both lie down on the seats. I ended up trying to sleep sitting in one seat, while my wife slept across the other two.

On Air New Zealand's website, there are actual photos of two adults sharing one Skycouch.

And remember, these are economy seats. Even with the extra padding, they're still pretty hard when you lie down on them.

And remember, these are economy seats. Even with the extra padding, they're still pretty hard when you lie down on them.

The nicest thing about the Skycouch? You won't end up sitting next to a stranger. We loved having some extra room in which to move around because it makes the long flight feel a lot less cramped.

The nicest thing about the Skycouch? You won't end up sitting next to a stranger. We loved having some extra room in which to move around because it makes the long flight feel a lot less cramped.

Overall, we didn't get as much sleep on the Skycouch seats as I thought we would. They're definitely not comparable to the fancy seats in the front of the plane that turn into beds to let you lie down.

Overall, we didn't get as much sleep on the Skycouch seats as I thought we would. They're definitely not comparable to the fancy seats in the front of the plane that turn into beds to let you lie down.

Still, having some extra space and privacy was really nice. It made our flights a lot more comfortable, which is why I think the Skycouch was a worthwhile purchase. But don't go into the experience expecting too much from the upgrade.

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