Last week I got to try one of the more unique flights around, Qantas’s one-stop flight from New York JFK to Sydney. What makes this flight unique is that it includes a stopover at LAX, which I believe makes the JFK-LAX segment the only US domestic flight operated by a foreign carrier.
The US Department of Transportation does not allow foreign carriers to operate passenger routes solely within the United States. However, no current passenger aircraft in operation today would have the range to be able to fly from JFK-SYD nonstop (9,950 miles). So LAX is more of a refueling stop on this flight, and although tickets can be sold for departure from either JFK or LAX, Qantas is not allowed to sell tickets for just the JFK-LAX portion.
Qantas uses JFK’s Terminal 7 which is the same terminal used by British Airways, Iberia, ANA, and a few others. Qantas has its own separate check-in area next to the BA check-in counter which is split between Economy, Premium Economy and Business class:
The security entrance was a bit unorganized, however. None of the airlines that use T7 are covered under the TSA Pre-Check program, so there is no separate entrance for Pre-Check travelers, but there are separate lanes for Economy and Premium passengers. Since I was traveling in Business class, I waited in the Premium line; however, the “crowd control” agents kept letting various passengers cut into the premium line while the Economy class line kept moving, so it was actually a longer wait in the premium line. But once I was in, since I had a couple of hours before my flight, I headed to the lounge. Qantas uses the BA lounges in this terminal, which include a Galleries lounge (business class/oneworld Sapphire) and a First lounge (first class/oneworld Emerald).
Since I’m a oneworld Emerald flyer, I was directed to the BA First lounge on the left. After visiting several BA First lounges over the last several years as well as many other oneworld first class lounges as an Emerald member, I have to say this is one of the worst first class lounges I’ve ever been in. First, the furniture was extremely dated, worn, and very mismatched. I counted at least 10 different styles/colors of chairs in a lounge that has maybe 60-70 seats total.
The food was edible but no hot meal options as in most other BA First lounges. The main food was a collection of sandwiches, and there were no food options with meat anywhere in the lounge (including the sandwiches which only included fish and veggie options).
The plane used for the JFK-LAX portion of the flight (a 747-400) is sometimes the same plane used on the LAX-SYD route; however, because of the length of the continuing flight, there is an A380 used in place of the 747 on this portion of the route on some days. The day I traveled, the 747 was used on both portions. There is no first class, and business class is located in the front of the plane in a 2-3-2 configuration (except for the nose of the plane where it is just 2-2) and upstairs in a 2-2 configuration. Premium Economy is behind the business section on the lower level in a 2-4-2 configuration, and regular economy is in back of that in a 3-4-3 configuration.
The best seats for solo travelers in business class would be either row 14 on the upper deck (with extra legroom due to the exit row) and row 5 on the lower deck (seats A and J; the window seat that is normally there in other rows is not there in this row due to the protruding exit door, and there is a big storage area in place of this seat). I was lucky enough to grab 5A on the JFK-LAX segment; however it was not available for LAX-SYD. But here is a picture showing the large storage area available for that seat:
The flight left JFK on-time (6pm departure) and business class passengers were given printed menus which looked quite good compared to first/business class offerings on transcontinental routes by US carriers.
I opted for the salmon rillette and the toasted beef sandwich. Both were pretty good, although the beef in the sandwich may have been a bit overcooked. But still edible.
The menu on the continuing flight from LAX-SYD was similar, although there were a few more dinner choices available.
I wasn’t too hungry on the second flight after eating on both the first flight and a bit in the Qantas lounge at LAX so I opted for just the chicken sandwich on this flight:
The entertainment system was touch screen and fairly easy to use, but the quality of the picture wasn’t that great, and the screen was a bit small and had to be taken out of the armrest, which somewhat interfered with the tray which was also in the armrest. However, the entertainment selection was great. Most carriers might have maybe 40-50 movies at most; however, the system on the Qantas 747 had hundreds of movies along with other entertainment; below is a sample screen shot showing 3 pages of movies for just one letter of the alphabet.
Overall, the experience was ok, probably met my expectations but did not exceed them. I think the first flight was a bit better, partly because the cabin was only about half full with the remainder of the passengers boarding at LAX, so I think the service was a bit more personal and attentive. On the LAX-SYD portion, I felt like the crew was not as friendly and attentive and were kinda rushing through the dinner service. Also, the fact that Qantas does not have wifi service available on any of their planes (although they are in the final stages of rolling out a new satellite based wifi service) forces you to “disconnect” from the world for about 20 hours out of the entire 22.5 hour flight time.