Best Business/First Class from US to Australia

Discussion in 'Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific' started by Cathy S, Aug 19, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. Cathy S

    Cathy S Silver Member

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    Hi all, Going to Australia next summer and it's time to book my award. Can anyone tell me the best airline/aircraft for business or first class travel to Australia? Most of my miles are on American and British Air but would be open to all suggestions. Thanks.
     
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  2. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    In addition to the airline, look at the aircraft, routing, and schedule.

    DL does LAX-SYD on the 777-LR which is awfully nice for business/(first) class, called Business Elite, with (fully) flat bed seats (including a big feather pillow and a nice big quilt, aka duvet, but no PJs) and good big-screen AVOD in a herringbone 1-2-1 layout which feels like almost having a suite.

    If your destination is not Sydney, look at QF nonstops into Brisbane and Melbourne. It's a big pain to switch between international and domestic terminals at SYD. Your AA/BA miles can be used on QF. Or you could do CX through HKG for a good experience.

    Other good alternatives using *A would be SQ through SIN or NZ. Personally I would avoid UA/CO because of the seat arrangements, including 2-4-2 in business on the 747.
     
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  3. MSPeconomist
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    Look also at whether a RTW or Pacific Circle ticket would make sense. They can be less than a RT to Australia.
     
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  4. kraken

    kraken Silver Member

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    Suggest you try CX F on the long haul. Where in Australia are you planning to go?
     
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  5. Kung Pao

    Kung Pao Gold Member

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    Yes Qantas would not be a good experience * :)

    * Meant in jest only
     
  6. JohnDeere19
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    JohnDeere19 Gold Member

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    With BA/AA miles, Qantas if you can find the space, especially in their first class! CX is amazing too, but you can't route through asia with AA without paying extra.
     
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  7. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    Hi Cathy. Welcome to MP.

    I head up the US division of a large Australian company and have flown from the US to Oz probably 20 times. Here is what you need to consider:

    There are four non-stop options from the US, ranked in my strong order of preference:
    1) Qantas (4-class) (departs from LAX, DFW)
    2) V Australia (a Virgin affiliate) (2 class) (LAX Only)
    3) Delta (2 class - adding a third at some point) (LAX Only)
    4) United (4 class) (LAX and SFO)

    Four classes means First, Business, Premium Economy and Economy. Two is Business and Economy. Delta offers "economy comfort" on certain long haul planes - not sure if it is on their 777LRs yet - but is slightly better than economy.

    First of Business awards from the US to Australia are considered by many knowledgeable people to be some of the most difficult awards to get. Most would say the best premium cabin award availability is on V Australia. You can use DL miles to redeem on V Australia. If you have Amex MR points, you could transfer them to DL to book on V Australia. V Australia's business class is very nice.

    Qantas offers by far the best First Class product. Their A-380 F experience is among the best in-flight experiences you can have. I find their 380 J experience to be very nice, too. On the ground in MEL or SYD is very nice, and OK in BNE.

    I've also flown to Australia via Asia. I don't think any carrier permits Asian routings for award tickets - which means you either need to redeem two awards to route through Asia. Or you do what I call a cash+points award, where use an award to cross the pacific, then buy a ticket from Asia to Australia. Most routes from Asia to Australia and fairly competitive, and fares are typically in the low four-digits for a business ticket. It takes about 5 hours longer from NY to route via Asia to Australia. You could of course bake a stop over in an Asian port if you'd like. Similar options exist via the Gulf (Etihad, Emirates) or Europe. Pretty much all will bang you up more for miles on Atlantic routings, but are often easier in terms of availability. Or, you could consider points for most of the way, and paying cash for a portion.

    Routing through Hawaii or Tahiti are also options, both of which can be done with AA miles. However, note that the business class on these services to these interim points are far inferior to normal trans-pacific J service - simply because they are tourist dominated routes. I tried QF on SYD to HNL, then DL to JFK via MSP once - thought it would be nice to have a day in HNL. But, as soon as I sat on the QF plane, I realized the error of my ways - that even J was basically a domestic product, not an international product. You'll find the same thing via Tahiti, though J and F fares are very reasonable (if you're considering paying).

    New Zealand doesn't offer many options for OneWorld pax. QF runs one service daily from LAX to AKL; it's an easy trans-Tasman connection across to any east coast city of Australia from there. You might find slightly better award availability on this routing, when compared to US-Australia non-stops.

    I have a couple of posts from things I've enjoyed in Australia here: http://www.sitinfirst.com/category/destinations/australia/ I will be adding a trip report to Southern Ocean Lodge soon. (www.southernoceanlodge.com.au) I highly recommend it if you have the time.

    Except for V Australia, It's a tough bill to get two premium award seats to Australia. The destination, I assure you, is worth the trouble.

    PM me with any questions.
     
  8. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    Disagree strongly.
     
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  9. kraken

    kraken Silver Member

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    I've enjoyed my QF J flights.

    Sent from my iPhone using milepoint
     
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  10. Kung Pao

    Kung Pao Gold Member

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    Tongue in cheek :p From your detailed post, I can see that Qantas all the way direct is in fact a very good experience.
     
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  11. Any advice for using US Air points around Christmas time to go from the east coast (Philly or NY airports) to Sydney. Best days to travel,.who will accept these points? should we use US air points to fly to CA and book Qantas or V Australia from there to Sydney?
     
  12. kiwi
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    kiwi Gold Member

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    Best advice is to book 11+ months ahead when seats are released. Premium award seats to Australia/NZ are hard enough at any time, but peak season (late December through mid January) is very difficult.
     
  13. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    Try united via SFO or lax, or Air New Zealand via lax to akl.
     
  14. Cathy S

    Cathy S Silver Member

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    Thanks for the great response. I was able to get 4 Business class JFK to SYD through Auckland
    and 2 First Class and 2 Business SYD-JFK (both on Qantas using AA miles). Have you flown the from LAX to AKL
    on the A330-200? Any experience with the Qantas Lie-Flat Skybeds? We're flying a 747-400 SYD - LAX. I would have loved to fly the A380, but couldn't get it.
     
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  15. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    Wow. Great redemption! May I ask what month you're traveling? Did you get four premium cabin seats on the same flights?

    The A330 that you take to akl will be the same plane that brings you from JFK to lax (if you are on qf for the domestic segment). The 330 is my least favorite long haul plane in the qf fleet, but that's not to say it's bad. The seats are still angled-lie-flat in j (f is not offered). The seats in j are 2+2+2, but are a bit more narrow than on the 747. I find the footwell to be a little cramped in these seats (but I wear a large shoe). Some leave the seats not fully reclined to get more of a cradle setup.

    You will be on the QF107 on the return. It is interesting that you got f seats on the 747, as qf is phasing out f on this plane. That phase out will take well over a year, so its reasonable that f is still being offered I guess. As part of the phase out, qf is installing true lie-flat seats in j. The result for you is that you probably will have the angled lie-flat seats in j on the return as the new j seats are going in at the same time they (sadly) pull out f! I strongly prefer sitting upstairs on this plane in j. Get either the bulkhead seats or the exit row seats upstairs if you can - though I'll take any seat upstairs of a qf747 rather than sit downstairs. They usually hold the exit row seats till day of departure, so you might have to book an alternate row, but get to syd early and ask to switch. (more on why to do this in a minute) If you've not been upstairs on a 747, other than F, it's the best way to fly. You get the feeling of flying on a big plane, but the intimacy of a small, well serviced cabin. They have two FAs up there for a small number of pax. Window seats have an extra storage setup between the seat and the window, which is also very helpful.

    F on a 747 will be the vintage-2000 f pods. I find them very nice, but they are over a decade old at this point. They are true lie flat. They are wide enough, but aren't as wide as the most recent generation of f seats. I am 6'4" and can lay straight out flat on them. I prefer row 1 for the most privacy - and two people traveling together could take 1a and 1k, but you'd be about 3 feet apart from each other. You can dine together in one seat if you'd like. They also have several sets of interior seats which are right next to each other in f. Most pairs select these.

    Qf created a whole new seniority scale for the a380. So the f FAs on the 380 aren't always the most experienced. On the 747, however, they are the most experienced - and I've found the service to be personalized but with a consistent level of quality. I find the 747 FAs to be superior to qf's 380 FAs (though this is really splitting hairs). On your return, you'll switch back to the 330 to JFK (assuming you are on qf metal domestically). (you might be on an AA flight with a qf flight number instead)

    Sydney has one of the best f lounges in the ow system. As an f pax, you'll get curbside greeting and assistance if you request - and can pre-book compliementary spa services in the lounge. When departing syd, I usually try to arrive 2.5 hours early to spend some time relaxing in the lounge (and if I'm in j, to try and get the exit row seats upstairs!). They have a full restaurant in the lounge and plenty of pcs, sitting areas, etc. The only bad part about the lounge is leaving...knowing you're walking into 22 hours of time in a metal can!
     
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  16. Cathy S

    Cathy S Silver Member

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    Yes, I got 4 premium seats on the same day/same flights in July 2012. I don't think I'd ever get that if we were traveling in the summer.

    I'm actually flying an AA 767-200 to LAX in Business. I fly this a lot and it's actually a nice service (except there are no lie-flat seats). I'm not thrilled with the A330-200 but it was all I could get and didn't want to press my luck waiting for 4 premium awards on the same plane.

    I have flown upstairs on the 747 many times and I have to say I absolutely love it. Very private and the FAs are usually the most experienced. I think it's a win win for me on the return. I'll either get new lie-flat seats in J or the old lie-flat in F.

    What exactly is curbside greeting? Is it worth doing?

    Thanks again for the response.
     
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  17. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    If you are departing SYD in F, call 13 13 13 while in Australia and ask to be connected to the First Class lounge in SYD. You can make a spa appointment (or appointments) in advance. You can also arrange for QF to send an agent to the curb (kerb) to greet you when you arrive at the airport. They will give you a number to call when you are ten minutes out from the airport, and they will come out at wait for you. That agent will have a baggage cart and will carry your bags for you to the F check in area. You basically dont have to lift a finger at the airport - nor find your way through it. Either that agent, or a different agent, will, upon request, escort you all the way through immigration and security to the F lounge.

    They don't escort you on to the plane, but otherwise, it's basically analogous to AA's five star service. And it is free with your f ticket. http://www.sitinfirst.com/2011/03/american-airlines-expands-5-star-service/
     
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  18. Cathy S

    Cathy S Silver Member

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    Hello again. I might have the opportunity to fly to SYD via Hong Kong in Business on Cathay Pacific (CX885) rather than fly on QF through Auckland. Any thoughts as to which is the better way to go?
     
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  19. aussieflyer
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    aussieflyer Silver Member

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    With the new J seats on CX I would go with that option.
     
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  20. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    Definitely cx. It will take a little longer to fly there, but the transit stop in hkg is very nice (best network of ow lounges, IMHO), the new cx j is very nice (and it is getting rolled out heavily on the US and Aussie routes) and qf's trans-Tasman service is effectively a domestic flight in terms of service.
     
  21. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    If you exclude IFC, the DL BE product on the 777-LR is awfully nice. It's 1-2-1 seating with flat beds arranged at an angle so that it seems like a mini-suite with storage and a big screen for AVOD. No caviar, etc., but the meals and choices are very good and some of the wines are also good, but they're not SQ FC standard.
     
  22. Cathy S

    Cathy S Silver Member

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    OK. I'm going to see if I can make the change. Wish me luck!
     
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  23. NYBanker
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    Good luck! (you won't go wrong either way though)
     
  24. Toula
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    Toula Gold Member

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    We've done the Oz via Hong Kong option on Cathay a couple of times and we love it. We normally stay in HK for a few days and just enjoy being in a totally different culture.

    Fingers crossed you can make it happen. Personally give me CX over Qantas any day.
     
  25. Cathy S

    Cathy S Silver Member

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    OK. So the Cathay Pacific change didn't work out. AA awards do not allow a stop from North America to Australia via Asia. But, I came up with something else. There is QF 747 service from LAX-SYD through BNE and return service from SYD-LAX through MEL on a QF A380 in First. Should I make the change? That A380 service is very tempting and I'd be flying a 747 on the outbound instead of an A330. What do you think?
     

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