Qantas to the USA: Airbus A380 via LAX or Boeing 747 via Dallas?

By John Walton, May 18 2011
Qantas to the USA: Airbus A380 via LAX or Boeing 747 via Dallas?

With Qantas' new flights from Sydney to Dallas/Fort Worth (and back via Brisbane) well under way, Australian passengers are presented with new connection options for other US cities.

Dallas is, after all, the hub of Qantas' oneworld alliance partner American Airlines, which is why Qantas is flying there rather than San Francisco -- and why Qantas has added 28 US cities to its codeshare list.

(Codesharing means that an airline adds its own two-letter airline code (QF for Qantas, AA for American Airlines, and so on) to another airline's flights. So, American Airlines flight AA76 is also Qantas flight QF3085. Codesharing generally means that you earn more frequent flyer points too.) 

To get to Dallas from Sydney, Qantas is using its Boeing 747-400ER planes, the ones with the extra fuel tank that only Qantas ever ordered from Boeing. They're older than the airline's A380s, though, which means that the seats aren't as comfortable and don't have the latest features.

But Qantas is still flying to Los Angeles' LAX with A380s -- which means its newest seats, including the excellent fully-flat Skybeds, are still available. And LAX still has better lounges than DFW.

Why is a fully-flat Skybed better than the lie-flat version? Check out our exposé: The Lie-Flat Lie.

So business travellers will have to make a decision based on connection times, seat comfort and features, and services on the ground.

Do you value a more comfortable seat across the Pacific in exchange for a slightly longer flight from LAX on arrival? Is the second-rate lounge situation in Dallas a deal-breaker? 

After weighing everything up, here's what we recommend.

Go via LAX for...

New York

New York is a special case where you should definitely go via LAX for New York's JFK airport.

You'll be able to continue on Qantas' Airbus A330 flights with angled-flat Skybeds or -- on AA flights -- recliner seats on Boeing 767s that are slightly more comfortable than the regular American domestic offering.

Unless you have a specific reason to fly to New York's La Guardia (LGA) or Newark (EWR) airports, JFK is the way to go for a more comfortable flight.

Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Oklahoma City, Phoenix

American flies to these cities nonstop from LAX, and simple geography means that it makes sense to connect via LAX rather than going east to DFW to then fly west again.

Flights from Melbourne

The A380 flies direct between Melbourne and Los Angeles, so rather than connecting in Sydney, take the more comfortable A380 from MEL before changing in LAX and another US airport to get where you're going.

Try to go via LAX for...

Calgary, Cancun, Detroit, Guadalajara, Kansas City, Mexico City, Milwaukee, Madison, Minneapolis, Monterrey, Omaha, Puerto Vallarta, Vancouver

While connecting to these cities via LAX makes geographical sense, American doesn't fly non-stop from Los Angeles. 

However, you may be able to get a connection on another airline, although you may not earn as many Qantas Frequent Flyer points for your flight.

Go via DFW for...

Atlanta, Austin, Hartford, Nashville, Boston, Baltimore, Cleveland, Charlotte, Columbus, Cincinnati, Des Moines, Newark, Fort Lauderdale, Grand Rapids, Houston (Intercontinental and Hobby), Washington DC (Dulles and National, aka Reagan), Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Lexington, Louisville, Memphis, Miami, New Orleans, New York (La Guardia and Newark), Orlando, Norfolk, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Raleigh/Durham, San Antonio, Saint Louis, Tampa, Tulsa, Toronto

Flying via Dallas makes geographical sense for this (rather extensive) list of cities and airports, since you'll have a greater proportion of your flight time on Qantas.

We look at it this way: even though you can connect to, say, Washington Dulles from LAX, it's overall better to spend more time on Qantas' older 747s than any American Airlines plane that flies from LA to DC.   

But some travellers -- especially in Business Class -- may still prefer to get a better night's sleep on the newer and more comfortable A380 before continuing on, even if that means an extra connection.

What will you pick? Share your strategies in the comments below, or tweet us: @AusBT.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2011

Total posts 232

You are wrong about the seat you get on the flight from LAX to JFK.
I did this return journey earlier this year on the Qantas A380 and the American 767.
The 767s that American uses back and forth between LAX and JFK and older than you and me. They are the 767-200s, not the newer 300s.
They still have the old 3-class cabin layout and I didn't get any lay flat seat in Business. They had to hand me my entertainment system and the power ports had been turned of because of some issue. They gave me a useless $200 voucher as compensation for the malfunctioning power points.

This is what business class was like:
 Just a big old seat.  First class is no better.

If you use the AA booking system you'll see what I mean.

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 665

Thanks for the correction -- we had information that the 767-300 was used on some of the flights, but it seems like our source had domestic and international flagship confused. 


15 Apr 2011

Total posts 580

It's really not that bad for what is gnerally a 6 hour flight. I agree that they really need to pick up their game, but compared with the rest of the offerings...

Another factor to consider is FF points... If you book business class as a connection from a QF flight on AA, you get 'upgraded' to First, which means you earn points and status credits at the same level of QF interntaional first services... Going transcontinental between SFO/LAX and JFK they do have a seperate business cabin...



18 May 2011

Total posts 3

I travel to Montreal and for a flight this week the SYD - DFW flight arrives too late into DFW to make connections to Montreal so am travelling through LAX.  On the way back I will be in Charlotte and have booked onto the DFW - BNE flight which is a good connection.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 May 2012

Total posts 371

I would also fly from LAX for other transcontinental services such as DC and Miami.  These trancontinental flights are better than a standard domestic offering.

13 Sep 2013

Total posts 1

Late to this story, but still, I disagree re connecting to Chicago. As a native Chicagoan living in Sydney, I do the SYD > DFW > ORD trip 2-3 times per year and DFW is far better than LAX, even handicapping for the A380 vs the 747-400ER and the lounges. To the author's point, you're better off spending extra time on the long-haul vs spending time on a normally brutal US domestic route. So...

First, Chicago is N/NE of DFW, so there's no backtracking. This article is incorrect. For some reason non-Americans think Chicago is in "the west." Chicago is far closer to New York than the Rocky Mountains, and MUCH closer to Dallas than LA.

Second, the DFW > ORD leg is about 90 - 110 minutes, not the 2.5 hours stated on your travel itinerary. And far better than the 3.5-4 hours needed for LAX > ORD. American carriers pad flight times to get better on time performance, especially between 2 huge airports like DFW and ORD.

Third, lounges aside, the new DFW international terminal is about as good as you'll find in the US. I don't know if it was open at the time of this article's posting but as of 2013 it's brand new, enormous, and the Admiral's Club, while not as good as Qantas Business or First lounges, is perfectly fine.

Fourth, for contingency planning (e.g. cancellations), you're better off in DFW than LAX when trying to get somewhere in the Midwest or East Coast. Not only is DFW the AA hub (and corporate HQ), there are flights to ORD (and LGA) nearly every 30 minutes. 

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