The best business class on Sydney-Christchurch flights

By Chris C., August 29 2017
The best business class on Sydney-Christchurch flights

Qantas, Virgin Australia and Emirates offer travellers business class on non-stop flights between Sydney and Christchurch – but which option is best for the business traveller and the hip pocket?

As it stands, having a fully-flat bed, direct aisle access and an inflight cocktail bar can actually be the most affordable way to fly in style, while the flights most expensive tend to have the least-desirable seats, merely reclining instead of tilting flat.

Australian Business Traveller ranks your trans-Tasman business class options on the popular Sydney-Christchurch route.

1. Emirates Airbus A380 business class

For the three-hour flight betwen Sydney and Christchurch, the Emirates Airbus A380 proves your best bet for a comfortable journey.

Upsides: This is a truly international-grade business class product, with fully-flat beds and direct aisle access from every seat – and perhaps even more noticeable on these trans-Tasman flights is the inflight bar and lounge area, where a dedicated bartender can mix your favourite drinks throughout the flight.

Don't want to venture back to the bar? Each business class seat also features a personal (non-alcoholic) minibar, with free and unlimited inflight Internet access on tap as well for business class passengers who are also Emirates Skywards members.

Rounding out the business class experience, the Emirates lounge in Sydney features an ample supply of Veuve Clicquot Champagne, while the Manaia Lounge used in Christchurch (below) is the same as offered to Qantas business class passengers.

Downsides: Qantas Frequent Flyer members who book Emirates flights on EK flight numbers will only earn points – but no status credits – on their journey, but as these fares can be considerably less-expensive then booking the same codeshare flight via Qantas, you'll need to decide if the higher fares levied by Qantas are worth the promise of status credits.

Schedule: Flight EK412 departs Sydney Airport at 7:50am each morning to reach Christchurch at 12:55pm local time. On the return, EK413 pushes back at 6:05pm in Christchurch ahead of a 7:25pm arrival into Sydney.

Price: From $1,309 return when booked on EK flight numbers, or $1,830 return when booked on QF codeshare flight numbers

2. Qantas Boeing 737 business class

Emirates' partner Qantas instead runs its domestic-style Boeing 737s across the pond between Sydney and Christchurch.

Upsides: While there are no beds on these planes, business class flyers can recline their seat, swing-out a padded leg rest for added comfort, and as with Emirates, can connect their devices to the in-seat power supply for a quick recharge or to remain powered-up throughout the journey.

While Qantas business class flyers have access to the airline's business class lounge at Sydney Airport by default, the Qantas+Emirates partnership also allows access to the nicer Emirates lounge in Sydney – which stocks Champagne as opposed to the Roo's Australian sparkling wine.

Downsides: There's no inflight bar on these jets, nor is inflight Internet currently available to Qantas passengers across the Tasman. Inflight entertainment screens in the first row must also be stowed for take-off and landing.

Schedule: Qantas flight QF139 takes to Sydney's skies at 5:45pm each afternoon ahead of a 10:50pm arrival into Christchurch, but the return journey home is less business-friendly for Australian travellers, with QF138 departing at 6:05am every morning to reach Sydney at 7:40am.

That's in time for the Sydney business day, but requires a very early morning start in Christchurch, plus the added overnight accommodation cost in New Zealand which would be avoided by flying home the previous evening on Emirates.

Price: From $1,710 return

3. Virgin Australia Boeing 737 business class

Mirroring Qantas, Virgin Australia also flies its domestic-style Boeing 737s across the ditch.

Upsides: With seats for just eight business class passengers spread across two rows, this is the cosiest business class cabin of them all.

The first row is great for uninterrupted working, while the second row is particularly ideal for reclining and taking a nap as there's a bulkhead wall behind these seats, which means you can recline as far as you like without being in anybody's way, and your seat won't be bumped by the passengers behind.

Virgin Australia also uses the Air New Zealand lounge at Sydney Airport – complete with a cocktail bar (try the signature Kiwi Martini), barista-made coffee, private shower suites and ample AC and USB charging stations throughout the space.

Downsides: There are no inflight entertainment screens here – instead, passengers are handed Samsung Galaxy tablets for use with the streaming inflight entertainment system, or can watch movies and TV shows on their own device through the same wireless service.

Balancing the tablet on your tray table during meal times is also impossible, unless you happen to nab an empty business class seat next to you, and can use the centre console as your tablet stand.

USB power outlets are not available and only some trans-Tasman aircraft are fitted with AC power, so be sure to charge your devices before your flight, just in case.

Legrests are also absent, and the Air New Zealand lounge used in Christchurch (below) is far more dated than the airline's newer facilities in Sydney, Auckland and elsewhere:

Schedule: The airline currently offers five flights a week in each direction (six from mid-September), with VA138 leaving Sydney at 7:10pm on Mondays, Tuesdays (from September), Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays to reach Christchurch at 12:15am early the next calendar day.

Out of Christchurch, VA135 departs at 6:10am on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays (from mid-September), Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, touching down in Sydney at 7:45am – requiring an extra night spent in Christchurch and a very early start for the flight home.

Price: From $1,711 return

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

21 Jan 2016

Total posts 196

Air NZ international lounge at Christchurch is to be upgraded next year as part of Air NZ's NZ$100 million lounge upgrade programme.


Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 733

There's no comparison really with Emirates A380 Business Class on this run.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Jun 2015

Total posts 105

Arent there two type of domestic B737's QF currently run?

One with ipad seatback pockets and one with in arm (which i have never seen)
How do you know which you will be on? 

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 376

NZ flights are run by NZ registered and crewed 737's. From memory, they have 8 of them and all have proper IFE, not iPads

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 363

Not all flights. I've been seeing more and more VH registered aircraft flying this route over the past few months.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2016

Total posts 23

All VA aircrafts are registered VH (Australian) now even there ones based in NZ

23 Feb 2015

Total posts 262

Would seem a no brainer to fly emirates. You can buy Q Club with the savings on one flight (offsetting the primary benefit arising from earning gold for domestic flights)

30 Aug 2017

Total posts 35

How do you compare CHS's Manaia Lounge used by EK/QF and Koru lounge used by VA ?

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

07 Sep 2012

Total posts 149

Why anyone would willingly travel this route on anything other than EK escapes me.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1248

Schedule, for one. 

06 Dec 2014

Total posts 27

I do the BNE/AKL route and always fly Emirates. I've just booked my flight for December with them for a cost of $1200 (Business Saver was available) compared to Qantas' offer of $1502 for the same plane and flight as business saver was still available.  OK, it's $300 but I can put that towards the cost of my rental car. If business saver is gone then the difference in price is massive.

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