The Golden period of travel amazing. Flight crew and passengers clothed like the airplane was their runway. Champagne, cigars, and caviar hovered for free. Leg space wasn’t an extravagance only a few could bestow. And around bedtime, the cocktail party shifted into a snooze party on certain airplanes. It was a period when there were berth beds in the air.
When Air New Zealand declared its objectives to launch berth beds in 2020, it may have displayed like an untried concept. Regardless, it had been adopted decades ago. In the 1950s, Pan Am airways handled flights on the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, which was an embodiment of extravagance. After passengers pampered in heavy meals of beef roast and cocktails, they bedded in the couchette above their seats. Rather than storing baggage in the aloft compartment, passengers used it to float off to sleep.
Other airplanes such as Martin M-130, Lockheed Constellations, and Douglas DC-6s served by airlines such as KLM and the now-defunct Trans World Airline had beds in both the upper and lower berths. They came with beds, Pullman-style curtains for privacy, windows, reading lights, and even breakfast in bed. A round-trip cart ticket from New York to London in a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser cost around $580 (Rs42,562) in those days.
Nowadays, travel is nothing like it used to be. The seats are confined to adapt many more people and burgers and sandwiches have substituted beef roast sealed in little foil boxes. And while Air New Zealand has strategies underway to launch bunk beds that economy passengers can purchase a niche for at an extra cost, it may never look the same.