As American Airlines prepares to spread its wings and fly to Sydney, many Aussie business travellers will find themselves boarding AA for the very first time.
Here’s what you need to know about the airline’s upcoming Sydney-Los Angeles services, covering everything from lounge access to seats, frequent flyer programs to connecting flights.
American Airlines' Sydney flights: the basics
When Australian flights commence: In short, from December 17 2015.
American will then fly daily between Sydney and Los Angeles – replacing four of Qantas’ current Boeing 747 services on the same route – with the first service taking off on December 17 from the US, and December 19 from Australia.
Flight AA72 will depart Sydney at noon each day to reach Los Angeles at 6.50am the same morning.
Flight AA73 is wheels-up from LAX at 9.50pm to arrive in Sydney at 7.55am two days later.
How to book a flight: From Monday July 27 (Sydney time), Aussie travellers can book American Airlines flights directly via the AA website.
Oneworld partner Qantas will also codeshare on these flights – that is, passengers can fly with American Airlines but with a Qantas QF flight number on their ticket – which also means these services can be booked via the Qantas website and will appear there alongside Qantas’ own flights to North America.
The aircraft: AA is using its Boeing 777-300ER jets on all flights to Australia – and much as the Airbus A380 is Qantas’ flagship aircraft, the same can be said for AA and its B777.
AA isn’t alone in using this single-storey, twin-aisle aircraft across the Pacific: competitors Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand and Delta Air Lines all use various versions of the Boeing 777 on their own flights to the United States, with different cabins layouts, of course.
American Airlines' Boeing 777-300ER travel classes
There’s first class with eight of AA’s Flagship Suites that transform into either a fully-flat bed or an office space when pivoting the chair towards the window…
… business class, again with fully-flat beds and also direct aisle access for every passenger…
… Main Cabin Extra, which offers improved legroom and seat width over AA’s standard economy seats along with ‘Group 1’ priority boarding privileges, but without being a full ‘premium economy’ product as you’d find on Qantas…
… and of course, standard economy – often referred to as Main Cabin. Seats here are a little tighter in a 10-across 3-4-3 layout, with 31 inches from headrest to headrest and a seat cushion that’s 17 inches wide.
Wherever you sit, you’ll also have access to in-seat power, along with inflight Internet at an extra charge.
American Airlines: Sydney, LAX airport lounges
In Sydney, eligible American Airlines business class passengers and Oneworld Sapphire frequent flyers – including Qantas Gold and AAdvantage Platinum – can relax in the familiar Qantas international business class lounge before their AA flight to Los Angeles…
… while travellers in first class and Oneworld Emerald members such as Qantas Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman’s Lounge and AAdvantage Executive Platinum and ConciergeKey cardholders can unwind in the superb Qantas First Lounge, enjoying its restaurant and day spa facilities (as available).
Returning home, AA’s Los Angeles-Sydney flights will use Terminal 4 at LAX, an American Airlines spokesperson confirmed to Australian Business Traveller – which means forgoing Qantas’ new Los Angeles business class and first class lounges in favour of AA’s own Admirals Clubs, plus its Flagship Lounge for first class passengers and top-tier frequent flyers.
Paid-up Qantas Club members can also stop by Qantas’ business class lounge in Sydney when booked on the Qantas QF flight number, along with the AA Admirals Clubs at LAX whether on a QF or AA flight number.
American Airlines: connecting flights in Los Angeles
Much as Qantas can already do today, American Airlines passengers using Los Angeles as a transit hub will be given all onward boarding passes at check-in in Sydney, with their bag tagged through to their final destination.
For example, when flying from Sydney to New York via Los Angeles, you’ll receive both your Sydney-Los Angeles and Los Angeles-New York boarding passes on the ground in Sydney, while your bag will also be tagged through to the Big Apple.
To meet US Government requirements, you will however need to clear passport control in LA, collect your checked bag(s), proceed through Customs and then deposit the bag on the baggage belt immediately afterwards.
As your bag will already be tagged for your onward flight, there’s no need to visit a check-in desk in LAX – just drop your bag, clear airport security and head straight to the lounge.
Earning frequent flyer points, status credits on AA
As Qantas and American Airlines are part of the global Oneworld alliance, Qantas Frequent Flyer members can earn both Qantas Points and status credits when choosing to travel with AA.
The exact number you’ll pick up depends on whether you book the Qantas QF or American AA flight number – a Platinum frequent flyer travelling in first class would net 27,000 Qantas Points in each direction by booking a QF flight number, but a fewer 18,728 Qantas Points on the AA code…
… while in business class, you’re looking at 22,500 Qantas Points in each direction for a Platinum on the least-expensive QF-coded tickets or a lesser 16,855 Qantas Points when booking directly via American on the AA flight number.
In economy, you’d earn at least 9,000 Qantas Points in each direction as a Qantas Platinum member on a QF flight number, or at least 3,746 Qantas Points via an AA ticket.
As with any American Airlines flight, you can't use your Qantas Points to upgrade to business class or first class, regardless of whether you book on the QF or AA flight number.
And of course, you could instead credit your Qantas and American Airlines flights to AA's own AAdvantage program – earning miles plus elite-qualifying points, EQ miles and EQ sectors along the way.
Earning Qantas Aquire points on American Airlines
Businesses enrolled in Qantas’ Aquire scheme can notch up Aquire Points when their employees travel to Los Angeles and beyond with American Airlines, provided the flight was booked through Qantas on a QF flight number.
Aquire doesn’t impact a traveller’s ability to earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points or status credits – these are still on offer to your road warriors while the business amasses Aquire Points at the same time.
A return journey on American Airlines from Sydney to Los Angeles would accrue 18,000 Aquire Points in first class, 10,800 Aquire Points on the most affordable business class tickets or at least 2,700 Aquire Points when flying in economy.
Just be sure to select a Qantas QF flight number and attach the business’ ABN when making the reservation, as booking an AA flight number means earning zero Aquire Points.
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