Review: Qantas Auckland-New York - inside the inaugural direct flight and what to expect in business class

Kiwis wanting to take a bite of the Big Apple now have two direct flights to choose from, with Qantas' inaugural non-stop service from Auckland to New York taking to the skies last week.  

The new route marks a significant milestone for Qantas, who before the June 14 flight hadn't landed on New York soil since before the pandemic. 

While the pre-pandemic Sydney-New York service transited in Los Angeles, the new route operates via Auckland before a non-stop flight to John F. Kennedy International Airport - heating up competition between Qantas and rival carrier Air New Zealand, who launched its flagship Auckland-New York direct service last September. Qantas is initially operating the route three times a week, increasing to four in October.  

The arrival of the Sydney-Auckland-New York service also means the Australian airline now operates three of the five longest routes in the world (alongside Perth-London and Sydney-Dallas) - cementing its reputation as a carrier specialising in ultra-long-haul flights.  

Newshub was aboard the inaugural QF3 flight from Auckland last Wednesday, alongside fellow journalists from New Zealand, Australia and the US as well as several Qantas bigwigs, including chief executive Alan Joyce, newly appointed head of Qantas International Cam Wallace, and Neil Perry: a lauded Australian chef slash Qantas' creative director of food, beverage and service.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce and newly appointed head of Qantas International Cam Wallace.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce and newly appointed head of Qantas International Cam Wallace. Photo credit: James D. Morgan/Getty Images for Qantas

The inaugural flight was celebrated in style by Qantas, who commemorated the special occasion with a playful production on departure and arrival that featured a number of New York City's cultural touchpoints. From a pretzel stand at check-in to an array of delightful dishes derived from the city's vibrant food scene (think pastrami-on-rye and pizza) in the business lounge (and a kangaroo mascot greeting passengers at JFK), Qantas did not do things by halves. 

Onboard, business class passengers were treated to cosy special-edition pyjamas and stylish amenity kits - designed by Australian fashion designer Rebecca Vallance - and a new inflight menu inspired by some of NYC's most beloved foods and yes, bagels are among them. 

Qantas banners on aisle ropes at Auckland Airport check-in
The inaugural flight was celebrated in style by Qantas, who commemorated the special occasion with a playful production on departure and arrival. Photo credit: James D. Morgan/Getty Images for Qantas

While future flights will not be heralded in quite the same fashion as the inaugural QF3, travellers can still expect plenty of the features - from the seats to the service - to be the same or at least very similar. 

Here are my thoughts on Qantas' very first QF3 flight from Auckland to the Big Apple - and what prospective travellers can expect flying business class on the service. 

The lounge  

After checking in and going through security, I headed to the Qantas lounge for what the airline said would be a New York-themed event. Accessible to business class travellers, the lounge is set to undergo a major overhaul as part of an AU$100 million revamp of Qantas' existing lounges. 

The redesign - which is expected to be completed by mid-2024 - will combine the two existing spaces into a single international lounge, taking its 244 seats to 340 and increasing capacity by around 40 percent: a sign of the upward trend in travel post-pandemic.  

The current lounge is spacious and airy, with a number of different seating-slash-dining configurations for the solo traveller or groups of friends or colleagues to cluster around. There's a good selection of beverages on offer as well as a spread of light finger foods - think cheese, crackers and crudités.  

Food on offer at the Qantas lounge - pizza, hotdogs, Waldorf salad, and a staffer making cocktails
The inaugural flight was preceded by NY-themed drinks and bites at the Qantas lounge. Photo credit: Newshub

For the inaugural flight, we were treated to a little something extra: as Qantas had promised, there were New York-themed nibbles and light bites on offer, including margarita pizza, Waldorf salad, hotdogs, pastrami-on-rye sandwiches and deconstructed smoked salmon bagels. Plus flowing champagne, of course. 

For the month of June, Qantas' lounges in Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland will also feature a NY-inspired dish of the day - along with Manhattan Spritz and Garibaldi cocktails - to commemorate the new route. 

Three staff smile with plates of NY-themed dishes in the Qantas lounge
The new SYD-AKL-NYC route has an inflight menu inspired by the city's vibrant food scene - we were able to try some of the new options ahead of the flight. Photo credit: Newshub


Upon boarding we were treated to a beverage by Qantas' friendly business class cabin crew (champagne for most, still water for me) as we made ourselves comfortable for the 16-hour flight ahead. For the inaugural service, our seats featured special-edition pillows emblazoned with Qantas' 'Back to Broadway' emblem, plus goodie bags containing a branded mug and cap. 

While these little additions won't be available on QF3 flights moving forward, business class customers can expect the limited-edition Rebecca Vallance amenity kits and PJs for roughly the first six weeks of the service - then the standard pyjamas offered on long-haul flights thereafter.  

To celebrate the occasion, the majority of media, Qantas staff and executives - including chief executive Alan Joyce - quickly changed into their matching sleep suits, the pyjama-clad cabin mixing and mingling with glasses of bubbly. It was then announced by Joyce that the QF3 was, at the time, Flightradar24's most tracked flight in the world.

A business class seat on the QF3 flight with 'Back to Broadway' amenities for passengers
For the inaugural flight, Qantas went all out with the 'Back to Broadway' theme. Photo credit: Newshub


As aforementioned, the limited-edition sleep suit is navy with a bespoke design, while the amenities are housed in a navy-and-cream Rebecca Vallance-branded purse which according to Joyce, can also make for a stylish clutch bag while out and about - and I wouldn't disagree. Each bag contains a patterned sleep mask, navy socks, dental kit, ear plugs and three Li'Tya minis: a hand cream, moisturiser and lip balm. 

The Rebecca Vallance-designed special-edition pyjamas and amenity kit
The Rebecca Vallance-designed special-edition pyjamas and amenity kits will be provided to business class passengers for about the first six weeks of the service. Photo credit: Supplied

The cabin  

Of the 236 seats on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, 42 are for business class passengers. These seats are divided into two cabins, the first holding 30 and the rear seating 12. 

The suites are arranged in a one-two-one configuration, allowing everyone access to the aisle and plenty of space. The seats are in a dark grey fabric and cased in silver and pale gold shells with wooden touches. Passengers have access to three toilets that staff keep clean and topped up - I never found myself short on toilet paper or soap.  

The cabin itself is fairly minimal with clean lines and good lighting that transitions throughout the duration of the flight, from warm yellow ahead of lights-off to red hues setting in to gradually awaken slumbering passengers. 

The seats and entertainment

While I haven't travelled business class with Air New Zealand, I have with Emirates - on the A380 from Dubai to Auckland in March. While the two differ in terms of furnishing and style, I felt the two were fairly comparable in regards to space and comfort.

While the Emirates seats are upholstered in a cushioned, quilted cream with large padded headrests and a lacquered wooden bench, the Qantas seats feature dark grey, pale gold and silver-slash-metallic-look materials with a wooden accent on the inside of the shell. Both are pleasant to look at, but Emirates is perhaps a touch more luxe. 

Both the Qantas and Emirates seats offer a remote (should you wish to forgo the touch-screen) as well as easy-to-use seat controls, a USB port and universal charging socket. Unlike Qantas, Emirates' business class seats also come equipped with a portable tablet for small-screen entertainment and a small mini bar stocked with a variety of beverages, while each Qantas seat is accompanied with bottled water. 

Unlike Emirates, however, Qantas hides the remote away in a compartment, reducing visual clutter (mine was to my right), while the inside of the lid also features a handy mirror for quick touch-ups. Emirates provides a compact mirror in its amenity bags, which are also stocked with travel-size Bulgari products. 

A business class seat with the touch-screen in front
The seats are spacious and comfortable. Photo credit: Newshub

Each business class seat aboard the QF3 has a 16-inch touch screen, with a decent selection of new releases, classic films and TV shows. I didn't explore much of the other tech available, but I did enjoy watching Bridesmaids, Girl, Interrupted, Fight Club and a documentary on the iconic Little Richard. Emirates had more options to peruse, but both had all eight films in the Harry Potter franchise, so that's good enough for me. 

People seated in the centre rows needn't worry about privacy either, thanks to a sufficient screen between you and your neighbour. There is a shared bench space between you, but unless a stranger is trying to hold your hand, that shouldn't be an issue. 

The seats themselves are spacious, comfortable and recline to a fully-flat bed, which you or a flight attendant can make up with the provided mattress, duvet and pillow. They are very easy to adjust via a panel located on the side console: whether you want to recline, sit upright, shift forward or back or bring up your leg rest, the controls can be toggled to your heart's content until you achieve your desired position. There's a ceiling light and reading light for your convenience, adequate storage space, a slide-out adjustable table and even the option for a lumbar massage at the press of a button.  

Speaking of the seat-turned-bed, I slept like a baby to and from New York, racking up about seven hours of shut-eye on the way and about 11 to 12 on the return flight. Sensitive sleepers can don their eye mask and ear buds and cosy up for a pretty comfortable night's rest, all things considered. 

In the fully-flat position, I still had plenty of foot room when stretched out (I'm about 5'8"), and didn't feel as though my legs were too confined or restricted inside their little under-seat cocoon - a major pro for someone as restless as I am. Of course, for taller folk, things might get a little squished. It's the same with Emirates: while the business class seats offer plenty of space for long-legged individuals in the upright position, once fully reclined, they might start to feel a little cramped. My dad, for example, who is 6'4", would likely struggle to lie down comfortably on his back, and would need to tuck his legs in the foetal position or sleep sitting up to avoid his legs and feet getting crammed against the seat in front.  


I was ever so slightly crestfallen to discover that both the QF3 and QF4 flights did not have Wi-Fi onboard. For those who want to work, WhatsApp or while away the 16-17 hours in the sky on social media, that luxury will not be available on the service for some time. Joyce says the existing networks currently aren't reliable enough for what Qantas wants to offer, which will eventually be fast and free Wi-Fi powered by the launch of new satellites. Alternatively, Emirates does offer Wi-Fi on flights, as does Air NZ and other airlines.  

Food and drink

To celebrate the new route, acclaimed chef and creative director of food, beverage and service, Neil Perry, has added a range of dishes inspired by New York's legendary food scene to the inflight menu.

In business class, the menu spans an aperitivo, entree, main and dessert, plus a selection of breakfast options, both cold and hot, and a range of mid-flight snacks. The menu is designed to be customisable, Perry says, allowing customers to completely personalise their dining experience.  

On the inaugural QF3, the mains included a New York-style spaghetti and meatballs; beef fillet with creamed spinach and baked potato with sour cream and chives; seared snapper with roasted sweet potato, spiced onion, green beans and sumac yoghurt; and a plant-based option, Korean-style sesame baked eggplant with stir-fried green beans, jasmine rice and pickled vegetables.

Those with a sweet-tooth could tuck into a New York-style baked cheesecake, seasonal fruit and chocolates or a cheese plate for dessert, while mid-flight snacks ranged from a classic Reuben sandwich to crackers with dip. 

Folks who enjoy their flight with a glass or two of wine have a good selection, from Duval-Leroy Clos des Bouveries 2006 champagne (on that particular flight) to premium Australian wines selected by Qantas' sommeliers. There's aperitifs, spirits, cognac and liqueurs, beers, dessert and fortified wine and of course, soft and hot drinks. There's also a real emphasis on hydration: still and sparkling water are always on offer and staff make a point of filling up your water bottle throughout.  

All in all, the food was tasty and beautifully presented: like business class passengers would expect, it's also served on china plates with proper cutlery and a tablecloth, with beverages served in nice glasses or mugs and saucers. 

My main, dessert, and breakfast
My main, dessert, and breakfast - as a coeliac, the staff were helpful, attentive and made sure I wasn't left out. Photo credit: Newshub

The staff also appeared to be fairly knowledgeable about allergies: as a coeliac, I was able to discuss with cabin crew what options could be made gluten-free, and I never felt left out. On the return flight, staff went out of their way to find me a selection of chocolates to enjoy for dessert, and made sure to double-check the ingredients of the meals. The only downside - there were no gluten-free bread or pastry options available (Emirates had both, including gluten-free rolls and muffins). 

The other slight hiccup was that I wasn't asked how I'd like my beef cooked, and it was served pretty rare (blood-oozing-rare). At the risk of sounding like a dreaded Karen, on the return QF4 flight I asked if it could be cooked medium - it wasn't, but the flight attendant who took my half-eaten fillet kindly asked if I wanted another one prepared, which I declined. 

Overall, I never felt like a burden or a hassle, and that's down to the exceptional service. 

Qantas crew walk to QF3 at Auckland Airport on June 14, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand.
The Qantas cabin crew delivered a smiling service that couldn't be faulted. Photo credit: James D. Morgan/Getty Images for Qantas


The staff aboard were friendly, attentive and chatty - it seemed like nothing was too much trouble. There are typically four flight attendants in business class, but there were six for the inaugural flight, all of whom delivered a prompt and smiling service - even when media and the Qantas team blocked the aisles as they chatted, filmed and conducted interviews. 

Alan Joyce, CEO Qantas Group in the arrivals area at JFK International Airport after a Qantas 787 Dreamliner, flight number QF3 flew to New York in 15 hours and 8 minutes from Auckland, New Zealand on June 14, 2023 in New York City.
Alan Joyce, CEO Qantas Group in the arrivals area at JFK International Airport after a Qantas 787 Dreamliner, flight number QF3 flew to New York in 15 hours and 8 minutes from Auckland, New Zealand on June 14, 2023 in New York City. Photo credit: James D. Morgan/Getty Images for Qantas

The verdict

The new Sydney-Auckland-New York route is great news for New Zealanders, offering another direct service to the Big Apple and providing major competition for Air NZ, which will ultimately mean better deals for travellers in the long run.  

Operating via Auckland allows Qantas to pick up passengers that are travelling to and from New Zealand, also providing US passengers another option into the country. A Qantas spokesperson told Newshub Auckland is "an easier connecting point than through LA", while JFK will provide "more seamless connections" for Kiwis and Aussies alike wanting to travel onwards from New York. 

The inaugural QF3 after arriving at JFK International Airport on Wednesday, June 14 (local time).
The inaugural QF3 after arriving at JFK International Airport on Wednesday, June 14 (local time). Photo credit: Newshub

Fast facts

  • The QF3 arrived in New York earlier than expected, touching down at about 4pm (local time) after 15 hours and eight minutes of flight time
  • QF3 departs Auckland on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and from October 29, Mondays as well 
  • QF3 departs Auckland at 4:35pm and arrives in New York at around 4:50pm (local time) after a flight time of approximately 16 hours and 15 minutes 
  • QF4 departs New York at 7:30pm and arrives in Auckland at around 5am after a flight time of approximately 17 hours and 30 minutes 
  • The 787 Dreamliner seats 236: 42 business class suites, 28 premium economy seats and 166 economy seats 
  • Qantas started flying from Sydney to New York in 1958 with a route that transited via Fiji, Honolulu, and San Francisco 
  • The aircraft arrives and departs JFK at Terminal 8 and business class passengers can use Qantas' commercial partner American Airlines' Greenwich Lounge pre-departure.  

Lana Andelane travelled to New York on the inaugural QF3 flight and returned to Auckland on the QF4 courtesy of Qantas.