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Travellers are spoiled for choice when flying from Sydney to Auckland and back again with no fewer than six airlines offering business class seats and service at the pointy end.
That list includes Qantas, Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand, along with more far-flung carriers in Emirates, LATAM and even China Airlines.
Australian Business Traveller ranks your options on this popular international route, along with how much you’d pay on a return journey if flying in late October.
1. Emirates: Airbus A380
There’s no denying that a three-hour flight in business class aboard Emirates’ flagship Airbus A380 trumps anything the competition has to offer.
Upsides: Joining fully-flat beds with room to stretch out is direct aisle access for each and every passenger – yet Emirates’ superjumbos also offer an inflight bar and lounge area with a dedicated cocktail bartender mixing drinks throughout the flight, plus a private minibar at every seat.
Also pleasing are Emirates’ business lounges in Sydney and Auckland where you’ll find an ample supply of Veuve Clicquot Champagne, but if you’ll be working during the flight, there’s 10MB of free inflight Internet at your disposal with 500MB of extra data yours for just US$1 (A$1.33).
Downsides: There really are no downsides here – and heck, if you prefer to earn status credits in Qantas Frequent Flyer, you still can by booking these flights under Qantas (QF) codeshare flight numbers.
Price: From $1,713 return
2. Air New Zealand: Boeing 777, 787
Like Emirates, Air New Zealand also offers true international-grade seating between Sydney and Auckland, but you need to be careful which flight you pick…
Upsides: You’ll again enjoy fully-flat beds with direct aisle access from every seat aboard Air NZ’s Boeing 777-200s, Boeing 777-300ERs and Boeing 787-9s…
… while the Kiwi carrier’s new lounges in Sydney and Auckland feature freshly-made barista coffee – great before those early morning flights – along with cocktail bars, self-serve dining options and showers if you’re so inclined, with Air NZ flights eligible to earn Virgin Australia status credits too.
Downsides: Air NZ also flies its Boeing 767-300s across the pond, but which feature reclining seats in a six-across layout (pictured) rather than flatbeds with direct aisle access. Some flights also have no business class seating at all, so you may need to be flexible on flight timings.
As a rule, flight numbers beginning ‘7’ (eg. NZ716) only provide economy class seating while flights starting with ‘1’ (eg. NZ102) offer some form of business class: but you’ll still want to double-check which aircraft type is serving your flight, avoiding Boeing 767s if you can.
Price: From $1,714 return
3. LATAM: Boeing 787
Formerly known as LAN, LATAM also flies across the Tasman – and thanks to its membership in the global Oneworld alliance, Qantas Frequent Flyer members can again earn points and status credits on LATAM flights.
Upsides: Absent is direct aisle access offered by Emirates and Air NZ, but travellers can still lay fully-flat in LAN’s business class beds, arranged in a 2-2-2 layout…
… with ample storage space around their seats owing to a fixed footrest that can also hold laptops, along with a nook for your shoes under that footrest and storage by your side too:
Downsides: With just one flight a day in each direction, LATAM’s 6am departure from Auckland (being 4am local time in Sydney) means an extra early start to the day, proving less than ideal if hosting a business dinner the night before.
The Qantas lounges LATAM uses in both Sydney and Auckland are also past their prime, and while the Red Roo is planning a new lounge in Auckland, there’s no word on if or when Sydney will also gain a facelift.
Price: From $1,283 return
4. China Airlines: Airbus A330
A relatively unknown option across the Tasman is SkyTeam alliance member China Airlines, flying four times each week but with fares less than half that of most other carriers.
Upsides: With this flight a continuation of the airline’s longer Taipei-Sydney route, you’ll again find international-grade business class seating but with angled-flat beds in a 2-2-2 layout as opposed to fully-flat sleepers.
There’s no need to fly to Taipei, however: you can book purely trans-Tasman journeys too.
Downsides: While China Airlines’ flight timings are business-friendly on the days that they do depart, if you have to fly on the other three days of the week, you’ll need to book that flight with a different airline instead.
Price: From $837 return – the lowest price of any airline
5. Qantas: Boeing 737
Being a mere three-hour flight where many travellers wouldn’t lie fully-flat, Qantas instead deploys its domestic-style Boeing 737s between Sydney and Auckland.
Upsides: Even though there’s no bed, business class flyers can still recline, put their feet up via padded leg rests and adjust the seat’s lumbar support for added comfort.
Qantas runs multiple flights each day, and like Air New Zealand, allows you to travel on your own schedule. Qantas flyers also use Qantas’ business class lounges by default but you can choose to use the nicer Emirates lounges instead if they’re open and have adequate space.
Downsides: You won’t necessarily save money by trading a lie-flat bed for a reclining business class seat on Qantas with fares more than twice that of China Airlines, so if inflight comfort is more important to you, investigate all of your options before you book.
Price: From $1,713 return
6. Virgin Australia: Boeing 737
Like Qantas, Virgin Australia also flies its domestic-style Boeing 737s across the ditch.
Upsides: This is the cosiest business class cabin flying between Sydney and Auckland with seats for just eight travellers, each of which can be reclined – and if you’re in the second row, there’s a bulkhead wall behind, so you can recline as far as you like without being in anybody’s way.
Passengers can also use the newer Air New Zealand lounges in each city before their flight, the same as if they were flying with Air NZ.
Downsides: Unlike Qantas, there’s no leg rest to be found here, nor do the seats offer adjustable lumbar support. Inflight entertainment also comes by way of a Samsung tablet rather than a fixed screen, which can be difficult to prop anywhere while enjoying meals.
Price: From $1,713 return
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