Boeing 787 Dreamliner
- Comfortable well-appointed business class seat
- Boeing 787 takes the edge off jetlag
- No WiFi
- Skip that LAX transit for hassle-free flight from Sydney to New York
“Transiting at Los Angeles on the way to New York is so much fun”, said nobody ever – at least no-one in their right mind.
Lining up to clear immigration, collecting your checked luggage and then re-checking it for your onwards flight to New York while you schlep between terminals and potentially face another snaking queue for domestic security, then waiting hours to catch your NY-bound flight… that’s a punishment we can all do without.
Now there’s a better way to get to the Big Apple, with Qantas launching a Sydney-New York flight which makes a pit-stop at Auckland rather than LAX, before heading straight through to NY.
It’s made possible by the same Boeing 787 which serves up Perth-London in a single continent-striding leap.
Qantas isn’t the first to take this approach – Air New Zealand commenced direct flights between Auckland and New York in September 2022.
But for Qantas, the Sydney-Auckland-New York route is a prelude to true non-stop flights from Sydney and Melbourne to New York from late 2025 on the ultra-long range Airbus A350 – which unlike today’s Boeing 787 adds first class to the mix, along with all-new business class and premium economy seats.
For at least the next few years, an Auckland stopover is Qantas’ solution to skipping the headaches and hassles of LAX.
And make no mistake, it’s a long journey, clocking in at just over 21 hours from take-off to touchdown – with around 16 of those hours ticking slowly away on the Auckland-New York leg.
This means business class is clearly the place to be, and the 787’s familiar flagship Business Suites deliver in style with ample comfort, plenty of personal space, a 16” screen and of course a fully lie-flat bed.
For most travellers, this marathon will begin at Sydney – although Qantas expects morning flights from Melbourne and Brisbane will carry connecting passengers to join QF3 at Auckland.
Ahead of QF3’s scheduled 9.30am departure, most business class passengers, Qantas Gold frequent flyers and Qantas Club members will head to the international Qantas Business lounge.
I’ve said it before, and it bears repeating: this is a sadly pedestrian effort for what is Qantas’ flagship business class lounge.
And Qantas knows this, which is why the this lounge is slated for a massive makeover across 2024-2025 to deliver more space, more seats and “a new signature dining experience.”
For now, you’ll have to make do with furniture that’s seen better days and a buffet which on the morning of our Sydney-New York flight offered a ‘breakfast snacking’ menu of staples such as bircher muesli, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns and baked beans, porridge and yoghurt.
From 8am a plate of the day is served at the raised ‘island dining’ benches – ahead of our flight this was a disappointingly dry ‘corned beef sweet potato hash’ with baby spinach, a poached egg and red pepper relish.
High-flying Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers (and elite invitation-only Chairman’s Lounge members) can while away the pre-flight hours at the far superior Qantas First lounge, enjoying a restaurant-style à la carte menu with a choice of cocktails and Champagnes.
In the morning, I always find it hard to go past the corn fritters…
… although the healthy breakfast bowl combines fewer calories with less guilt.
And in a nod to QF3, the Qantas First lounge’s breakfast menu also featured these sweet ‘dollar pancakes’ with blueberries.
Before long it was time to head to the boarding gate, where one of Qantas’ newest Boeing 787s was waiting.
I settled into my business class seat on the Boeing 787, having selected 7A because the aisle-facing bench offers a little more privacy and less distraction, especially when it’s time to sleep.
But if you want maximum legroom, shoot for a seat in the front row of each business class cabin, where there’s more distance between the seat and the bulkhead wall plus a much larger ‘cubby’ for your feet.
These specific seats are 1A and 1K (at the window), 2E and 2F (in the middle) plus 10A, 10E, 10F and 10K.
QF3’s 9.30am departure means the meal en route to Auckland is categorised as a lunch, and business class passengers were presented with four options:
- parsnip soup with pancetta, hazelnuts and Greek yoghurt
- a 'plant-based dining' variation on the same soup, accompanied only by sourdough croutons
- Thai beef noodle salad with chilli & lime nam jim dressing
- Bannockburn chicken Kyiv with lettuce, peas, bacon and potato puree
These all came with a side of kale and sweet potato salad with Tasmanian smoked salmon and a ‘Green Goddess’ dressing, and were followed by Maggie Beer ice cream.
The cabin crew were happy to serve me both the hearty parsnip soup with pancetta, hazelnuts and Greek yoghurt…
… and the tongue-tingling Thai beef noodle salad.
With the Qantas Boeing 787s lacking WiFi, there’s not much else to be done than to watch a movie or a few episodes of a TV boxed set on the inflight entertainment system or start reading the book you wisely packed for the long flight to come.
(And in case you’re wondering: yes, you can book just the trans-Tasman leg of QF3 and QF4 and enjoy the Dreamliner’s modern business class and premium economy on a quick trip across the ditch between Sydney and Auckland.)
QF3, Auckland stopover
After the quick three-hour dash from Sydney to Auckland comes a two-hour stopover as the Boeing 787 is readied for its marathon trek across the Pacific and all the way through to New York.
My flight touched down at Auckland on schedule at 2.30pm, and despite dreading a long and painful transfer, the airport had all three transit lanes open and fully staffed.
Being at the pointy end of the plane helped, of course, and being among the first off the plane we were headed to the Qantas lounge by 2.40pm.
Qantas maintains seperate business class and first class lounges at Auckland, although the later is essentially a haven for Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers.
Both lounges are showing their age and look more like Qantas Clubs, although there are plans to transform them into a single, larger and decidedly upmarket Auckland premium lounge by late 2024.
While usually offering only a buffet, a ‘plate of the day’ has been introduced at both lounges during the stopover period for QF3 and QF4.
From 3pm, loungeworthy flyers on QF3 can look forward to the likes of pastrami on rye with Russian dressing and sauerkraut, Moroccan lamb pot pie and pork & fennel sausage rolls.
The 5am arrival of QF4 from New York sees breakfast fare such as bacon & scrambled egg bagels, baked eggs, quiche and frittatas.
Qantas says these tray-around menus will be the same at both the business and first class lounges, and there’ll always be a choice between a meat-based and vegetarian dish.
By 4.30pm we were back at the departure gate and soon winging our way out of the City of Sails to the City That Never Sleeps, which lay some 14,200km and 16 hours away... and now the long haul really begins.
QF3, Auckland to New York
The upside is that these 16 hours are yours to spend as you wish, and even allowing for an optimistic eight hours of sound sleep – something few people can reliably achieve at 30,000 feet – that’ll be just half the journey.
Thankfully the inflight entertainment system is heavily loaded with boxed sets that are perfect for a bit of binge-viewing, from hits like Succession and The White Lotus to the Perry Mason reboot, Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
However, the lack of inflight Internet remains a drawback. Qantas will thankfully install fast and free WiFi across its Airbus A350 Project Sunrise fleet, and expects the Boeing 787s will also be retrofitted with the same high-speed satellite tech.
Despite the sheer length of this flight, Qantas sticks to its conventional business class dining format of a main meal – in this case a four-course dinner served 90 minutes into the flight – a selection of ‘mid-flight' snacks and, perhaps oddly, considering for the 5pm arrival at New York, breakfast (although to be fair, most passengers spent the second half of the flight to New York sleeping).
The gap between take-off from Auckland and the start of dinner is the perfect time to slip into the supplied pyjamas.
Qantas is among the handful of airlines to carry business class PJs, and for the first few months of QF3/QF4 this sleepwear is a stylish ‘limited edition’ outfit from Aussie designer Rebecca Vallance in a soft French navy marle cotton (although only carried in sizes M/L and L/XL).
Vallance also styled the amenity kit case and eyeshade with the same art-deco pattern; the rest of the kit includes Li’Tya skincare products plus the obligatory dental kit, earplugs and socks.
When dinner rolls around, the menu leans heavily into QF3’s New York destination, and regular Qantas business class travellers will find no surprises in the Neil Perry menu, and certainly nothing with a solid ‘wow’ factor.
First up was an ‘aperitivo’ of a Manhattan Mary cocktail – basically a Bloody Mary with a celery stick – and a solitary blini with caviar and crème fraîche.
We could choose between four starters:
- potato and leek soup with chives and crème fraîche
- a ‘plant-based’ version of the same soup, accompanied only by sourdough croutons (the same approach as taken on the Sydney-Auckland leg)
- salad of prawns with fioretto, farro, snow peas, confit chilli and orange dressing
- pork and shiitake mushroom dumplings with pickled cucumber and sesame chilli dressing
While the dumplings seemed the most popular dish in the business class cabin, I opted for the light and zingy prawn salad.
Likewise, there were four choices of main course on our business class flight from Auckland to New York:
- Korean-style sesame baked eggplant with stir fried green beans, jasmine rice and pickled vegetables
- New York-style spaghetti meatballs with tomato ragu and parmesan
- Seared snapper with roasted sweet potato, spiced onion, green beans and sumac yoghurt
- Beef fillet with creamed spinach and baked potato with sour cream and chives
The spaghetti meatballs seemed an obviously NY go-to, however the baked eggplant was filling without sitting heavy on the stomach (something more and more frequent flyers are becoming aware of).
Another New York touch appeared on the dessert menu in the form of a baked cheesecake with Blueberry compote, alongside the reliable ice cream sandwich, although I opted for a simple cheese platter paired with a glass of sweet Lillypilly dessert wine.
It’s almost a given that you’ll get peckish in the later half of the Auckland-New York leg.
In addition to the usual self-serve snacks of chips, biscuits, chocolate and dips, the cabin crew can on request rustle up a pumpkin and goat’s cheese quiche, a crumbed snapper roll and a Reuben sandwich of pastrami on rye bread with Russian dressing and sauerkraut topped by a skyscraper stack of pickles.
After most of the flight taking place in the cocoon of darkness, the sun rose as we approached the US west coast, with breakfast served at 90 minutes before landing as we steadily tracked north-east towards New York.
Again, the breakfast menu is along the same lines as other long-range Qantas flights, with the selection spanning from muesli, toast and muffins to scrambled eggs with bacon, roast tomato and kale; a bacon, egg and cheddar roll with BBQ sauce; and a leek and mushroom egg white omelette with asparagus.
By the time breakfast was done we were closing rapidly on New York, with the bulk of this long flight behind us and the excitement of The City That Never Sleeps ahead.
Although touchdown at New York’s JFK Terminal 8 was scheduled for 4.50pm, our flight benefited from strong tailwinds to land almost an hour early at 4pm – with an added bonus of there being almost no queue for immigration.
In summary: while there’s no getting around the fact that it’s a long way from Sydney to New York, the brief Auckland stopover of Qantas’ flight QF3 is so much better than struggling through LAX.
Making this flight work for you relies on maximing your sleep: provided you get a properly deep and restorative sleep en route, you’ll arrive into New York well-rested and ready to tackle business or begin your holiday.
Until those non-stop Project Sunrise flights take wing, this stands as the best way to get from Sydney to New York.
David Flynn travelled as a guest of Qantas