Business class to New York: Qantas vs Air New Zealand
We compare the new one-stop ‘long hop’ flights from Australia to New York.
While we don’t yet have non-stop Qantas flights from Sydney or Melbourne to New York – those ‘Project Sunrise’ marathons are set to take off from late 2025 – the Flying Kangaroo will launch a one-stop to New York in June.
That flight will trek from Sydney to New York’s JFK airport via Auckland, and it goes up against a similar Auckland-New York service from Air New Zealand which began in late 2022.
Both airlines see plenty of passenger appeal in skipping the long-standing LAX stopover and its associated hassles to whisk travellers straight to New York.
So how will the Qantas and Air New Zealand’s New York flights compare as the Aussie and Kiwi carriers fight for their slice of the Big Apple travel pie?
One key difference: the Qantas flight will start from Sydney, with the same Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner flying to Auckland and then onwards to New York (an identical arrangement to Qantas’ Melbourne-Perth-London and Sydney-Perth-Rome flight).
If you’re not starting your journey from Sydney, you’ll need to catch a separate flight to Auckland in time to jump onto the NY-bound jet. The Qantas timetable shows one suitable connecting flight each morning from Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide.
Air New Zealand naturally uses Auckland as its launchpad, but with connecting flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane timed for you to make the NY-bound departure. You’ll want to arrive the night before from Adelaide and Perth.
Here’s a look at the New York schedules for Qantas and Air New Zealand.
Qantas QF3/QF4 (begins June 14, 2023)
- runs Wednesday, Friday and Sunday
- QF3 departs Sydney at 10am and arrives into Auckland around 3pm; at 4.35pm it takes off for New York, where after some 16 hours aloft it lands around 4.50pm
- QF4 is wheels up from New York at 7.30pm, reaching Auckland at 5am two days later; then at 6.30am it’s onwards to Sydney for an 8.10am touchdown.
Air New Zealand NZ1/NZ2
- runs Monday, Thursday and Saturday
- NZ2 departs Auckland at 7.40pm and glides into New York just before 8pm
- NZ1 leaves JFK around 10pm and lands in Auckland at 7.30am two days later
Qantas vs Air New Zealand: lounges
Regardless of which airline takes you to New York, business class travellers will encounter two or even three lounges: those at their starting point (typically Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane), the respective airline’s Auckland lounge and, ahead of the return flight, their partner lounge at New York’s JFK airport.
Air New Zealand offers consistently good lounges at Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane with an extensive buffet, a selection of freshly-prepared dishes at the live cooking station plus a tended bar.
Of course, Auckland is home to AirNZ’s flagship lounge, where everything is dialled up a notch – we’d rate it as one of the better international business class lounges.
Qantas is more a mixed bag. If your journey begins at Sydney or Melbourne and you hold Platinum or Platinum One status, nothing beats breakfast at the Qantas first class lounge.
But both city’s international business class lounges fall short of expectations, a fact which Qantas will seek to remedy with upgrades for the Sydney and Melbourne lounges over the coming years. Brisbane has just the one international lounge but it’s better than Sydney or Melbourne.
As for the Qantas Auckland Lounge: yes, there’s a makeover on the cards which will combine the current first and business class lounges into a single much-improved space, that will be a long process stretching into late 2024.
It’s at New York that the loungescape shifts dramatically in Qantas’ favour.
Qantas flight QF4 departs from JFK Terminal 8, where Oneworld partners American Airlines and British Airways offer a chic Soho Lounge which welcomes Qantas Platinum and Platinum One-grade frequent flyers, while the Greenwich Lounge – formerly the American Airlines Flagship Lounge – is the go-to for business class passengers and Qantas Gold frequent flyers.
Air New Zealand’s NZ1 flight departs from JFK Terminal 1, where the lounges of Star Alliance partner Lufthansa are decidedly average in food, drink and decor.
Qantas vs Air New Zealand: business class
Air New Zealand and Qantas have both assigned a Boeing 787-9 to the New York route, and it’s an excellent choice given the Dreamliner’s modern design and ‘passenger wellness’ features.
The lower cabin altitude – equivalent to 6,000 feet above sea level, instead of the 8,000 feet of older jet designs – reduces muscle aches and general fatigue, while there’s more humidity in the cabin to stop your skin from drying out.
The upshot: you reach your destination feeling brighter and sharper, and while you may not have a spring in your step at least it won’t be a zombie-like stagger.
But the airlines’ Boeing 787 business class experience couldn’t more different.
Air New Zealand is flying an out-dated ‘sleeper shell’ designed some 20 years ago, which feels narrow and confining due to shoulder-height partitions on either side, while the angled layout sees many passengers facing one another like commuters on a bus.
And when you want to sleep, the crew have to flip the seat over and dress it with a mattress topper and pillows – there’s no facility to simply recline the seat through a deckchair-style ‘lazy Z’ mode to become your bed, which in turn impacts your ability to seamlessly move between those resting positions at any time during ther flight.
Yes, much better Business Premier seats and Business Premier Luxe suites are coming – but they won’t arrive until sometime in 2024.
So at least for now, that puts the Qantas Boeing 787 Business Suite way in front on pretty much every count (except for the companion dining of AirNZ business class, where another passenger can perch on the seat’s ottoman footrest to share a meal).
The wider seat is surrounded by useable space such as shelving and compartments, delivering a much higher degree of personal space and an overall superior level of comfort.
Qantas vs Air New Zealand: inflight entertainment
With both airlines boasting a well-stocked library of movies, TV series and music, there’s plenty of entertainment on tap for the long trans-Pacific trek.
However, the more modern design of Qantas’ Boeing 787 business class has a significantly larger screen, at 15.5” against AirNZ’s modest 11” display, and it’s positioned at a more passenger-friendly viewing position.
But if you value WiFi for keeping connected above the clouds, Air New Zealand offers free WiFi at which runs at a decent clip of 5-10Mbps (although video streaming is disabled, to maximise the shared bandwidth between all passengers).
Qantas doesn’t have WiFi fitted to its international fleet and doesn’t see that happening until at least late 2024, and more likely late 2025 on the first Project Sunrise A350 jets.
Qantas vs Air New Zealand: airfares
So how much will all this cost? Executive Traveller priced a business class return trip from Sydney to New York with both airlines, for travel in the first two weeks of November 2023.
Perhaps surprisingly, Air New Zealand and Qantas each came in at around $16,000 – although this involved selecting Qantas’ entry-level Business Sale ticket – the mid-range Business Saver options would have bumped the return price up to $20,000.
If you’re planning a one-stop ‘long hop’ trip to New York with either Air New Zealand or Qantas, feel free to share your preference and the reasons behind it with other Executive Traveller readers in the comments area below.
Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Business class to New York: Qantas vs Air New Zealand
11 Jul 2014
Total posts 903
I'd fly QF for Status Credits, better seats out of the two airlines.
After reading the article, I looked at Fiji Airlines for Sydney to New York and was surprised that it isn't an option as well.
LA is just one of those places that you seem to go through but never really want to stop.
Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer
25 Aug 2022
Total posts 12
I would take QF all the way. Their seat is one of the best in the world (quote Jeb Brooks), their lounge/s especially the new one in Auckland are way above NZ’s and their seat is more modern and private. The only real negative is their prices.
05 Mar 2015
Total posts 393
The 'new' QF Auckland lounge won't actually be open until late 2024, as the articles says. Pricing not a negative when NZ and QF have the same price, as this article notes. As for lounges being way above NZ, well it depends on what lounge you are using for your comparison. In Sydney and Melbourne the QF First lounges win hands down, but if you don't have Platinum status then the NZ lounges are way better than the Qantas business lounges. In Brisbane it's much of a muchness. In Auckland I would rate the NZ lounge over the QF lounge.
04 Apr 2014
Total posts 208
Interesting re prices; we just booked LA to Auckland for Christmas and AirNZ was ridiculous, it was actually cheaper to go via Sydney on Qantas than direct on AirNZ. Given my wife refuses to fly AirNZ business - because of the seats - the decision was easy.
Etihad - Etihad Guest
19 Jun 2019
Total posts 18
I think Qantas has the better seat I mean that goes without saying however Air NZ has a far superior soft product. They even serve a three-course meal across the Tasman in business. Qantas on the other hand gives you a two at best. I will get to try the new meals next Thursday to LAX so maybe it could get better.
If you are not a gold or above FF and you value sleep and food over a lazy mode while watching a movie I would take Air NZ.
05 Mar 2015
Total posts 393
As my handle indicates I am a very regular Qantas flyer so I am very familiar with its offering, but I have also done Air New Zealand SYD-AKL-JFK because I had to go to New York and was curious about this route, after all anything beats going via LAX at least now that Qantas has ended its own LAX-JKF 787 leg.
Lounges? Depends on your port of departure and status, this article does a very good job of covering that.
But for the rest of the 'in-flight experience' I have to say it comes down to 'hard product vs soft product' and there are big differences between them.
Qantas clearly has the better seat, no argument there. I've flown in this 'Business Suite' maybe hundreds of times on the A330, 787 and now A380. But the meals are never more than good and certainly not great.
Air New Zealand's f&b stunned me on my SYD-AKL-JFK flight. Brilliant meals, uncomplicated but delightful. Just really good food done really well, not fussy or pretentious or 'try-hard' which to be honest is how a lot of the Qantas Neil Perry food comes off.
Also I was impressed by the 'memory foam' mattress pad they put out, this really added a lot of comfort to the flight. Just bring your own PJs as NZ doesn't supply these.
So Qantas wins for its business class seat but really needs to learn from Air New Zealand when it comes to the soft product.
13 Feb 2015
Total posts 67
Yep, I'd agree with your observation. And assuming their soft product standards are maintained, when Air NZ finally gets their new seats, there's a strong argument to be made that they will offer the superior all-round service.
Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer
01 Mar 2013
Total posts 177
Hi QFP1 - I couldn't have put that any better. My experience was identical.
I need to get to GEO and can go through JFK or MIA - I prefer JFK. This said I've done the long route with EK (yes, through DXB) and if you need to catch up on sleep this is a great option (...and yes, a lot longer).
09 Aug 2015
Total posts 91
I did this last year, booked into premium economy which was not my choice but forced by client's budget, but scored an upgrade to business. Loved the f&b and service, loved the WiFi., but hated the seat. Okay sure it's better than premium economy but being stuck in that old design for 16 to 18 hours depending on which direction you are flying, was NOT a good experience. Air NZ tried to make it as good as they could with the great service and that mattress and pillows, very comfortable, but having to get up to manually flip over the bed was such a pain and the seat doesn't really let you recline the way other seats do. Better than a transit via LAX? Sure is! But the seat is the biggest drawback and I reckon it would turn off a lot of people right now.
Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer
21 Jul 2013
Total posts 43
Qantas is better in terms of seat and ambience. Apart from the Air NZ seats' design shortcomings, especially the weird way you sit relative to your neighbours, the awful ivory/pale grey colour is really off putting, As somebody else said here, the Air NZ menu, food ideas, and meal service are far superior. The Neil Perry QF offerings, although calculated to tick some trendy Sydney boxes, seem tired and tricked up, whereas Air NZ's food balances fashion and tradition well.
08 Jul 2015
Total posts 23
Very interesting comments above re food etc etc but recently on a SYD/SIN flight I was told by the FSD that the reason I couldn’t locate a musical offering was that Qantas don’t do inflight music any more! I asked if it was only on this route but was told it was on all routes.
I reckon this is very poor as not everyone wants to watch movies, tv and other visual offerings. I have always found it relaxing to have a doze with the background music of my choice in my ears.
Does anyone know about this or the reason behind Qantas not having music? It certainly detracts from the overall experience in my opinion
20 Nov 2015
Total posts 428
Great article and some very insightful comments as well. I haven't flown Air New Zealand internationally, well I consider those AU-NZ hops to be more regional than anything else, so the seating would certainly put me off because it's okay for SYD-AKL but not all the way to JFK and back! But I agree on the food and drink, plus crew have always been great. Once their new business class comes online this will be a MUCH closer race.
Qantas is always going to have an edge in its SYD and MEL first class lounges and also the NY ones but come on, that's just a few hours ahead of a total flight or journey time of, what, 22 hours? I'd rather have a 'decent' lounge experience and be a lot more comfortable during the flight, so QF wins for now but NZ could race ahead come 2024.
25 Jun 2018
Total posts 39
I am flying SYD to JFK in August 2023, and while booking in January there were NO reward seats using QFF points anywhere near my date. I looked at Air NZ & Qantas but prices were sky high (pun intended) so selected JAL. 50% of QF and 65% of Air NZ prices. Connection time in HND was a bit tight so JAL suggested an overnight hotel stay with price adjusted, so that the 2 flights were charged at ‘connecting’ price. Imagine QF doing that.
The journey timing using 2 ‘connecting’ flights was only 2.5 hours longer than the QF or Air NZ flights at a considerable saving.
I now have a 8 hour daytime flight to HND, dinner and an overnight sleep then an 11 hour flight to JFK. Much more civilised than the 16+ hour AKL-JFK slog.
Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer
06 Oct 2016
Total posts 156
I rarely travel to the US but ANA are currently around $8.5k so significantly cheaper for a slightly 25h our trip, so that is where I would be going with my money
Added bonus is “the room” on the HND-JFK leg, which I would like to experience. In my opinion both JAL and ANA are the best service bar none (I find middle eastern carriers have very superficial, tick a box service), it is just J seats are just a little too short for me on a night flight
Air Canada - Aeroplan
28 Feb 2015
Total posts 94
Another one-stop altrnative to NYC not mentioned here is Air Canada via Vancouver. Daily flights to EWR, arriving at 16:49. Departing Sydney 0925 in (Australian) winter months and 1200 summer months, total flight time 21 hours plus/minus half an hour (approx). Pricing is seasonal and day-of-the-week but around $10.8K–$11K return. One-stop trip also possible from BNE though not every day; costs approx $400 more.
Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer
09 Jan 2017
Total posts 27
Air New Zealand's "International" lounge in Auckland in February 2023: the most miserable excuse for hot breakfast food I've ever experienced across many airlines' lounges: 6:05a.m., cold scrambled eggs, just-warm hash browns the size of 50c pieces and tiny kransky sausages the size of your little finger. That was it!!! Not even a cook to do a fresh omelette. Appalling. I complained to the lounge manager, who thanked me for my comments but said the choice of menu was above her pay grade. Serious cost-cutting by Air New Zealand. BTW, also gone from Air New Zealand international flights - the complimentary bottle of water sitting on your seat upon embarkation - and the size of those coloured boiled sweets served 20 minutes before landing has halved! And that's assuming they even hand out the sweets now - not on all flights.Don't get me started on those coffins they call business class seats... Ah, but hot bedding's on the way just like submarines - when one hops out, another hops in. That's a winner? Not.