The best business class seats on trans-Tasman flights

By Chris C., November 24 2016
The best business class seats on trans-Tasman flights

Flying between Australia and New Zealand presents no shortage of business class options with nine airlines offering better-than-economy seats and service to high flying travellers.

Among them: local choices in Qantas, Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand, alongside Asian carriers Singapore Airlines, China Airlines, Philippine Airlines and Air Asia X, plus more far-flung options in Emirates and LATAM (formerly LAN).

Wherever you're from and wherever you're headed, Australian Business Traveller ranks the top five business class seats currently flying across the pond.

1. Emirates: Airbus A380

Nothing says 'international travel' like taking a flight on an Airbus A380 – and with Emirates, trekking across to New Zealand is no exception.

Upsides: Sure, there's a fully-flat bed with direct aisle access from every seat, but what's perhaps most appealing on these shorter flights is the A380's inflight bar and lounge area where you can socialise with other travellers over cocktails and nibbles...

... or, if you'd prefer, from a personal mini bar found at every seat. Emirates' A380s also offer every traveller 10MB of free inflight Internet, with 500MB of extra data just US$1 (A$1.35) more.

Downsides: There really are no downsides here, but if you're a Qantas Frequent Flyer member and want to earn status credits, be sure to book these flights under the Qantas (QF) codeshare flight numbers – book directly with Emirates and you'll only earn points, not status credits.

Routes: Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Auckland, plus Sydney-Christchurch.

2. Qantas: Airbus A330

Look to Qantas and its flagship Business Suite across the Tasman, provided your flight is served by an Airbus A330.

Upsides: Designed with the modern business traveller in mind, these Business Suites offer an array of storage (and charging) options for your phone, tablet and laptop, with space also for your preferred book, magazine or newspaper.

You can also have the seat partially reclined for take-off and landing, and transform it into a fully-flat bed for the journey in between. Of course, direct aisle access comes standard here too.

Downsides: If travelling with your partner or a colleague, there's no ideal pair of seats for you both to sit and chat. The centre set of two seats is better than chatting across the aisle, but comes with a fixed privacy screen in the middle which can't be opened or moved.

Many of Qantas' trans-Tasman flights are also served by smaller Boeing 737 aircraft which instead have a domestic-style reclining seat, so be sure to check your flight's aircraft type before you book.

Routes: Seasonally from Sydney and Perth to Auckland.

3. Air New Zealand: Boeing 777, 787

Air New Zealand's Boeing 777 and Boeing 787 aircraft also cross the Tasman, offering another true, international-grade choice.

Upsides: Whether you're booked on an Air NZ Boeing 777-200, Boeing 777-300ER or Boeing 787-9, you're guaranteed direct aisle access wherever you sit, along with a seat that can become fully-flat.

You can also earn Virgin Australia Velocity points and status credits regardless of whether you book an NZ or Virgin Australia (VA) codeshare flight number.

Downsides: Watch out for flights served by Boeing 767-300s: they also come with business class, but with reclining seats in a 2-2-2 layout in place of flatbeds and direct aisle access.

Some Air NZ flights also have no business class seating at all. As a rule, flight numbers beginning with '1' (eg. NZ102) offer some form business class, while those flight numbers beginning '7' (eg. NZ716) are all-economy services.

Routes: Selected flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to Auckland.

4. LATAM: Boeing 787

South American airline LATAM brings its Boeing 787 Dreamliners to Australia via Auckland, on which Qantas Frequent Flyer members can earn points and status credits on both QF and LA flight numbers.

Upsides: Catch some shut-eye in LATAM's business class cabin with fully-flat beds arranged in a 2-2-2 layout...

…and during waking hours, make use of the storage options available to you with a footrest that doubles as a laptop shelf when not in use, a shoe nook underneath and extra space to your side, too:

Downsides: These seats lack direct aisle access for every passenger as offered from the Emirates, Qantas and Air New Zealand seats listed above. The timing of the flight homeward-bound from Auckland also isn't ideal, departing at 6am local time.

Routes: Sydney-Auckland only.

5. Singapore Airlines: Boeing 777-200

The newest entrant to trans-Tasman flying, Singapore Airlines now links the capitals of Australia and New Zealand via an easy non-stop Boeing 777-200 flight.

Upsides: SQ's Boeing 777-200s offer the same leather-wrapped business class seats as you'd find aboard the airline's Airbus A330s. Frequent flyers may also recognise them as the same basic seat as Virgin Australia used to fly from coast to coast on its own A330s.

Here, there's space for your tablet or laptop in a pocket beside the seat; for your smartphone and bottled water down the front, and your glass on the cocktail shelf – accessible without opening up your full tray table.

Downsides: These seats don't recline fully-flat, nor do they offer direct aisle access from every seat: instead, they're 'sloping sleepers' in a 2-2-2 layout...

... which means you'll want to aim for a spot in the centre pair, otherwise you'll be stepping over somebody – or being stepped over yourself – to access the aisle.

Routes: Canberra-Wellington only.

More AusBT trans-Tasman 'best seats' guides:

FolloAustralian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Aug 2016

Total posts 54

good article, has there been an article published looking at the best J hard product overall?

Qantas Platinum

04 Dec 2012

Total posts 48

Great overview! More options than I thought there were. Thanks Chris

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Jul 2012

Total posts 117

How about China Airlines 51/52???

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2453

Hi dimi, this is a 'top five', not a complete listing of all trans-Tasman business class products. We've mentioned China Airlines in the opening paragraphs, but it didn't make the cut in this case.

However, you may be interested to know that China Airlines (CI51/52) was ranked as #4 out of the 6 business class products flying on the Sydney-Auckland route, covered here: The best business class seats flying between Sydney and Auckland

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

31 Oct 2016

Total posts 71

A plus side to this, the NZ 767 warning is now no longer a threat, which is a great update :)

Etihad - Etihad Guest

14 Jun 2019

Total posts 1

Would love an updated version of this. It seems Emirates no longer flies its A380 to NZ from anywhere other than Dubai, and Singapore has a direct Melbourne-Wellington flight now.


13 Aug 2016

Total posts 66

EK still run an daily A388 service on SYD-CHC, all of the BNE,SYD,MEL-AKL services got replaced by QF introducing the a332/333 onto the Tasman.

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