The best business class seats on Sydney-Auckland flights

In a four-way showdown between Qantas, Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand & LATAM, here's how they compare across the Tasman.

By Chris C., October 16 2019
The best business class seats on Sydney-Auckland flights

Passengers are spoiled for choice when jetting between Sydney and Auckland, with four airlines offering travellers five different business class seats depending on the aircraft you choose. On that list is Qantas and Virgin Australia, along with Air New Zealand and also South American airline LATAM, which a offers Sydney-Auckland leg ahead of onwards flights to Santiago, Chile.

Here are your options and, as a benchmark, how much you'd pay for a return trip booked for late November 2019.

1. Qantas: Airbus A330

On flights between Sydney and Auckland, the Qantas Airbus A330 takes first place in offering the best business class seat for executive travellers.

Upsides: Even though this trans-Tasman trek is just three hours long, Qantas' Business Suites on this route are the same as you'll find on most Qantas flights from Sydney further afield to Asia, and are a close match to those on Boeing 787 and reconfigured Airbus A380 flights including Sydney and Melbourne to London, as available.

While passengers are unlikely to transform the seat into a fully-flat bed across the ditch, the seat can take-off and land in a set pre-reclined position for added comfort, with plenty of storage space for your gadgets and other belongings.

Downsides: Qantas doesn't offer WiFi on international flights, so even if a WiFi-equipped Airbus A330 wings its way onto your Sydney-Auckland flight, you won't be able to get online.

Schedule: The airline normally uses the Airbus A330 on one or two return Sydney-Auckland flights each day. Flight numbers can vary, but it's most commonly seen on the QF145 and QF143 out of Sydney, and QF148 and QF146 returning from Auckland.

Price: From $1,031 return.

ET review: Qantas Airbus A330 business class

2. Air New Zealand: Boeing 777, Boeing 787

Like Qantas, Air New Zealand also offers proper international-grade seating between Sydney and Auckland, but you need to be careful which flight you pick.

Upsides: Expect to enjoy direct aisle access at every business class seat aboard AirNZ’s Boeing 777-200s, Boeing 777-300ERs and Boeing 787-9s, as regularly appear between Sydney and Auckland.

These seats can fold forwards to create a fully-flat bed, but the airline doesn't stock the usual mattress coverings on this route as there's not enough time to use it. At least there's still business class-grade dining plus complimentary WiFi.

Downsides: These business class seats are noticeably less private than what many travellers have come to expect from other airlines. AirNZ also uses Airbus A320s on some Sydney-Auckland flights which don't have business class: the best alternative being to book Works Deluxe, resembling 'EuroBusiness' being what's otherwise an economy seat with a guaranteed vacant seat beside.

Schedule: With 4-7 daily return Sydney-Auckland flights, Air New Zealand generally offers business class on 3-5 of those services, although this changes from one day to the next, including on departures with the same flight number.

Price: From $1,301 return.

ET review: Air New Zealand Boeing 777 Business Premier

3. LATAM: Boeing 787

One known as LAN Airlines, Chile's LATAM darts across the Tasman as part of its Sydney-Auckland-Santiago flights, and while you could fly all the way through from Sydney to Santiago, you can also travel purely on the Sydney-Auckland-Sydney legs.

Upsides: With a 2-2-2 seating layout in business class, these seats may be preferable to those of Qantas and Air New Zealand when travelling with a companion, particularly when planning to chat.

While it's again unlikely that passengers would utilise the seat's bed function across the Tasman, these seats also go fully-flat if desired.

Downsides: That same 2-2-2 layout means that passengers seated by the windows lose direct access to the aisle, and must step past (or over) their seatmate to achieve this. While pricing can also be competitive, LATAM has the least number of flights of any airline on this route so may not always suit your schedule, and does not offer inflight WiFi here.

Although currently a member of the Oneworld airline alliance, LATAM has also announced its intentions to depart from that alliance, which may impact some frequent flyers, including Qantas Frequent Flyer members, when booking direct with LATAM. Qantas has confirmed it plans to continue codesharing with LATAM, however.

Schedule: Currently, LATAM offers one daily return flight between Sydney and Auckland, with LA800 taking to Sydney's skies at 11:10am daily to reach Auckland at 4:15pm, and the returning flight LA801 wheels-up at 7:40am from Auckland, touching down in Sydney at 9:15am.

However, from October 27 2019, LATAM's trans-Tasman flights will be wound back to four weekly return services – departing both cities on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays – in favour of taking its Sydney-Santiago flights non-stop on those other days.

Price: From $739 return. When booked on the QF codeshare, expect to pay from $1,454 return for the same flights: significantly more, but earning at least twice as many status credits.

Read: LATAM begins non-stop Sydney-Santiago flights

4. Qantas: Boeing 737

While the Roo's Airbus A330 Business Suites will naturally be the choice pick when that schedule suits, the bulk of Qantas' Sydney-Auckland flights are instead served by Boeing 737s with domestic-style reclining seats in business class.

Upsides: Both Qantas and Air New Zealand have a comprehensive trans-Tasman flight schedule, but only Qantas offers business class on every single Sydney-Auckland flight, meaning you don't need to check whether business class is available every time you book a flight.

As far as reclining seats go, those found on Qantas' Boeing 737s are also perfectly comfortable for these short flights, offering the expected recline function, adjustable headrests, a swing-up legrest, and on many aircraft, AC power and seatback entertainment.

Downsides: You won’t necessarily find lower fare prices just by trading a lie-flat bed for a reclining business class seat, so if you're happy to travel relatively upright, consider other options too like Air New Zealand's premium economy and Works Deluxe packages, which can offer a similar level of comfort.

Schedule: With five daily return Sydney-Auckland flights (excluding the LATAM codeshare), Qantas uses the Boeing 737 on all services where the A330 doesn't appear, being 3-4 return flights each day.

Price: From $1,031 return.

ET review: Qantas Boeing 737 business class

5. Virgin Australia: Boeing 737

Like Qantas, Virgin Australia also flies its domestic-style Boeing 737s to New Zealand, but uses them on every Sydney-Auckland flight.

Upsides: With seating for just eight travellers, this is the cosiest business class cabin on the route. Each seat can be reclined, and if you’re in the second row, there’s a bulkhead wall directly behind, so that reclined seat won't be in anybody's way. Inflight WiFi is increasingly available, too.

Although the focus of these rankings is on the seat alone, one other noticeable advantage of flying with Virgin Australia is access to Sydney Airport's The House lounge, where passengers can enjoy a la carte dining before jetting off, compared to what's normally buffet dining in Sydney's Qantas and Air New Zealand business class lounges.

Downsides: While the seat reclines, there's no legrest here. As of September 30 2019, inflight entertainment is also now only available to those using their own devices via the onboard streaming service, with complimentary tablets no longer provided in business class.

Even then, gadgets are difficult to watch during meals when the tray table is otherwise occupied, as there's nowhere to mount or hang tablets and the like.

Schedule: Virgin Australia offers 2-3 daily return flights between Sydney and Auckland: all Boeing 737 flights.

Price: From $939 return.

ET review: Virgin Australia trans-Tasman business class

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

22 May 2011

Total posts 88


24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2437

Emirates axed its Sydney-Auckland flights in July 2017. Emirates continues to fly Sydney-Christchurch, however. China Airlines also withdrew from Sydney-Auckland flights in the same month.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Sep 2018

Total posts 3

Emirates flies from Australia to Christchurch only

Air NZ 'Business Class'. Nasty first gen', wrong way around coffin cubicles (even on relatively recent B787's !!) with minimal privacy ... and even less personal space ... a dining tray and a small 'flop down' tray directly alongside your elbow (check the second Air NZ photo) which is (extremely) easy to bump and spill your drink (invariably over yourself ... ask for an empty glass). If you've never been in Air NZ's current Business Class you deserve the disappointment for spending this amount of money without first checking out photos (such as these excellent Executive Traveler competitive examples) to see exactly what it is you're purchasing. You won't make the same mistake twice.

PS: (and not submitted for publication) aw, c'mon Chris ... surely you've got a more recent file photo of Air NZ's 773. This one (the first photo) shows the long gone, highly polarising, always doomed to fail, PremEcon Space Seats in the background (yes, I know the Business Class hasn't changed but that's hardly the point ... current accuracy is the name of the game). Moving on ... will be interesting to see if Air NZ can pull another 'polarising failure' out of the magician's hat with its secretive 'revolutionary', hanger 5 'new Business Class seats' effort.

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Aug 2018

Total posts 110

I heard about the new Qantas J seat and decided to try it before committing my wife ( a reluctant long distant traveller unlike myself) to the Melbourne to London flight. We flew to Auckland for a short 7 day break and found the new J seat wonderful. Flew to LHR and back in April / June 2019 and the same result....she loved it. The seat 10/10, the service 10/10, the lounge in Perth simply great and would I do it know I will in June 2020

Shame for AJ for not inviting me ( us) on the NY to Australia flight. If anyone can enjoy the Melbourne/ LHR and return flight, an extra couple of hours won't make any difference to me...bring it on!

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 157

Qantas 737 J class downside: cabin crew usually ignore economy pax using the business loo. Not so on Virgin.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

27 Jun 2019

Total posts 11

Only flying Qantas normally due to QFF, pricing in my opinion should be different when selecting a B737 flight compared to A330 due to completely different products. Yes food is the same and service generally should be the same but hard product completely different. B737 flights should be a couple hundred $ cheaper but of course this will never happen.

I do agree with tommygun though, QF need to implement the business loo only and redirect economy passengers backwards. Not so much a problem when no one needing the loo, however when you have economy passengers, 2 or even 3 lining up then a business passenger needing it, theres a bit of a wait. First world problems but QF crew don't seem to know how to handle this and so therefore, just don't do anything. There wasn't so much a probem when QF used to have a curtain between business and economy. They need to implement a proper wall like Virgin have on the B737

09 Oct 2018

Total posts 11

I'm definitely with the comments above on economy pax using the business class loos.

Recently I was flying LAX-AKL on AirNZ, and even the poor old pilot had to wait for the economy crowd to disperse before he could use the loo! Time to start roping-off the business class cabin again?

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