Business class to New York: Qantas vs Air New Zealand

While we don’t yet have non-stop Qantas flights from Sydney or Melbourne to New York – those ‘Project Sunrise’ marathons are set to take off from late 2025 – the Flying Kangaroo will launch a one-stop to New York in June.

That flight will trek from Sydney to New York’s JFK airport via Auckland, and it goes up against a similar Auckland-New York service from Air New Zealand which began in late 2022. 

Both airlines see plenty of passenger appeal in skipping the long-standing LAX stopover and its associated hassles to whisk travellers straight to New York.

So how will the Qantas and Air New Zealand’s New York flights compare as the Aussie and Kiwi carriers fight for their slice of the Big Apple travel pie?

One key difference: the Qantas flight will start from Sydney, with the same Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner flying to Auckland and then onwards to New York (an identical arrangement to Qantas’ Melbourne-Perth-London and Sydney-Perth-Rome flight).

If you’re not starting your journey from Sydney, you’ll need to catch a separate flight to Auckland in time to jump onto the NY-bound jet. The Qantas timetable shows one suitable connecting flight each morning from Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide.

Air New Zealand naturally uses Auckland as its launchpad, but with connecting flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane timed for you to make the NY-bound departure. You’ll want to arrive the night before from Adelaide and Perth.

Here’s a look at the New York schedules for Qantas and Air New Zealand.

Qantas QF3/QF4 (begins June 14, 2023)

  • runs Wednesday, Friday and Sunday
  • QF3 departs Sydney at 10am and arrives into Auckland around 3pm; 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

  • runs Monday, Thursday and Saturday
  • 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.

Air New Zealand’s lounges offer a consistently high standard for food.

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.

Qantas' Sydney and Melbourne first class lounges are superb, but the business lounges sub-par.

Qantas’ Sydney and Melbourne first class lounges are superb, but the business lounges sub-par.

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.

Nee York's chic Soho Lounge for Qantas' Platinum-grade frequent flyers.

Nee York’s chic Soho Lounge for Qantas’ Platinum-grade frequent flyers.

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.

In New York, Air New Zealand shares this Lufthansa lounge.

In New York, Air New Zealand shares this Lufthansa lounge.

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's Boeing 787 Auckland-New York business class.

Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787 Auckland-New York business class.

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.

Air New Zealand's Boeing 787 Auckland-New York business class.

Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787 Auckland-New York business class.

Yes, much better Business Premier seats and Business Premier Luxe suites are coming – but they won’t arrive until sometime in 2024.

This 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).

Qantas' Boeing 787 Sydney-Auckland-New York business class.

Qantas’ Boeing 787 Sydney-Auckland-New York business class.

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' Boeing 787 Sydney-Auckland-New York business class.

Qantas’ Boeing 787 Sydney-Auckland-New York business class.

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.

Screens for the long haul: AirNZ's 11" panel vs Qantas' 15.5" display.

Screens for the long haul: AirNZ’s 11″ panel vs Qantas’ 15.5″ display.

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 a business class return trip from Sydney to New York with both airlines, for travel in the first two weeks of November 2023.

Perhaps surprisingly, Air New Zealand and Qantas each came in at around $16,000 – although this involved selecting Qantas’ entry-level Business Sale ticket – the mid-range Business Saver options would have bumped the return price up to $20,000.

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.

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