There’s an exciting new way to fly from Sydney to New York – one which skips the headaches and hassles of the long-standing LAX stopover to whisk travellers almost straight to the Big Apple.
‘Almost' is, of course, the caveat: these flights take off from Auckland, which serves as the springboard for the long 16-hour direct trek to New York.
For Qantas, this means a Sydney-Auckland-New York route on the airline's latest Boeing 787 Dreamliner – a similar approach adopted for its Melbourne-Perth-London and Sydney-Perth-Rome flights, where a short hop precedes a long continent-spanning stride.
For Air New Zealand, which pioneered the Auckland-New York route in late 2022, it's a proper non-stop flight, although of course the Kiwi carrier relies upon Australian travellers making same-day connecting flights from the likes of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane (with an overnight option from Adelaide or Perth).
Either way, the premise and the promise remains the same – just one sleep, and you’re in the city that never sleeps.
With Executive Traveller having already extensively reviewed both flights in business class, here’s a quick guide to how they compare.
First up, here’s a look at the New York schedules for Qantas and Air New Zealand – although as neither run daily services, you’ll need to plan your timetable around that of the airline:
- QF3 departs Sydney at 9.30am and arrives into Auckland around 2.30pm; 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
- 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 both a Qantas and Air New Zealand business class return trip from Sydney to New York in the first two weeks of November 2023.
While Air New Zealand hovers around the $13,000-14,000 mark, Qantas starts at $16,000 on the entry-level Business Sale ticket – the mid-range Business Saver options, which on many dates were the cheapest available, bump the return price up to $21,000.
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.