Is This The Most Luxurious Domestic US Flight?

The perception out there is certainly that travel within the US isn’t glamorous. For the most part that’s probably true.

There’s one awesome flight within North America

There’s certainly one flight within North America that stands out, which would be Cathay Pacific’s daily flight between New York and Vancouver. The plane continues to Hong Kong, so has the service you’d expect on a longhaul flight. In first class that means you get turndown service, pajamas, Krug, etc. Not a bad way to travel coast-to-coast!

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class-Bed
Cathay Pacific 777-300ER first class bed

Cathay-Pacific-Amenities
Full amenities, even on a short flight

Cathay-Pacific-Krug
Krug on a flight within North America? Yes please!

The only downside to the flight is the timing, as it’s a redeye in both directions.

But what about exclusively within the US?

There are some flights within the US operated by aircraft with international cabins. Perhaps the most “glamorous” domestic route is still Los Angeles to New York. Nowadays the only airline in the market with three class service is American, which flies some pretty nice A321s in the market, featuring reverse herringbone seats with direct aisle access in first class.

American-A321-First-Class
American A321 first class cabin

“Secret” flight between Los Angeles and New York

But is that actually the most comfortable way to fly between Los Angeles and New York? I guess I’ll soon find out.

Possibly the most intriguing flight that operates within the US is Qantas’ 747 flight between Los Angeles and New York. It’s a tag flight that Qantas operates to feed passengers to New York that are connecting from Brisbane, Melbourne, or Sydney.

Qantas-New-York-Flight-1

As you’d expect, they don’t have the rights to sell someone just the domestic segment, so it can only be booked in conjunction with an international flight.

Qantas-New-York-Flight-2

I have an upcoming Sydney to Los Angeles flight in Qantas first class and don’t actually have a need to continue to New York, but couldn’t help but give the tag flight a shot, given that it had business class award availability.

Now, I’m not actually convinced Qantas’ business class product is better than American’s A321 first class product. In general I definitely prefer a reverse herringbone seat to a forward facing fully flat seat.

At the same time, I couldn’t turn it down for the novelty. Who wouldn’t want to fly on the upper deck of a 747 within the US?

Has anyone flown this Qantas between Los Angeles and New York, and if so, what was the service like?

Would you choose Qantas 747 business class over American A321 first class?

Comments

  1. maybe someone who has the experience could also compare it to MINT, no? so far many people seem very pleased with MINT.

  2. Ben, does booking the tag flight require that you have been on a specific Qantas flight arriving the same day, or can you stopover in Los Angeles before continuing on to New York? And you mentioned that you’re flying first from Sydney to L.A., but that L.A. to New York had business class availability — how can you check award space on that leg when it’s only sold in conjunction with a previous one?

    Obviously, the ideal situation (for a Californian) is if you could book a very long stopover in L.A. coming back from an Australia trip and then get to use your Qantas tag flight at some later point for a trip to New York one-way. But I can only assume that’s wishful thinking?

  3. sooo jealous… I wish Delta has something like this domestically I fly Delta redeye cross-country often.. especially the new 739 (B-737-900) first class seats are absolutely back and bottom breakers. I wrote to Delta that I think these seats are made out of wood. not to mention that first class last row doesn’t recline more than about 1 inch!!!!

  4. My wife took the flight once. I think it was a brunch flight, so a mix of breakfast and lunch items. She didn’t have much to say other than it was nice.

  5. Lucky, to add onto another comment, you should do transcon biz class on DL, UA, AA, and B6 to do a full side by side comparison. This is a route a lot of us fly, so it would be fascinating to read your trip reports and insights on the pros and cons of each one…

  6. I just did LAX-SYD with QF in the nose of the 744 as they no longer have first class there. I’d take that over upper deck.

  7. I have flown this route a few times out of Brisbane and Sydney, though not since the new QF lounge opened at LAX which is apparently fantastic, if you can get in haha. Everything is done through Tom Bradley which is great. It’ll be interesting to see if they keep the 747 now that Dallas A380 has opened up, it used to be an A330. I think Qantas Business is getting a little dated, the main issue is isle access if you sitting at a window, especially if the person next to you has the bed out, can make for some awkward straddling action. Sydney First Class check in is just a walled off area next to the Business class so not as awesome as Melbourne check in though I think the Sydney Lounge is a little better though tends to get a little busier.

  8. @ Nick – I’ve done that many times. The rules are a bit ambiguous so YMMV but most AA agents should be able to ticket it.

    @ Ben – Are you just trolling here by even asking that question? I fly Qantas all the time as well as the AA 321, and opting for QF is a no-brainer. The seat is no better than AA First… but the catering and the wine selection is miles ahead. The flight attendants are much more polished. The OneWorld First lounge at LAX is much better than the Flagship Lounge. What does AA bring to the table except for not having a seatmate next to you? (There used to be a first class cabin on this route, which was later sold as business. That was the real way to fly.)

  9. @ brit44 – +1. The nose is better than the upper deck. If you’re traveling with a partner, the middle seats in row 4 are awesome. Rows 1 & 2 can feel a tad claustrophobic.

  10. Most luxurious is probably one of those private jets.

    QF used to have First class cabins in its 747s right? Did they offer First class to JFK?

  11. i hear (and experience) a lot of negatives with AA FAs but all of my FA experiences on the A321T in F between JFK and LAX have been fantastic. super professional and non-intrusive.

  12. Lucky – If I book an award ticket from HKG to Vancouver (layover) and then to New York, instead of just Hong Kong-(Vancouver)-New York (fight 888), would I get the Full amenities twice?

    Just wondering if using Vancouver as an actual “layover” would entitle me to 2 full amenity kits.

  13. @ Joey – QF used to offer First all the way to JFK, yeah. I still think it’s a bit weird that they don’t. When they introduced the New First on the A380 they began ripping Old First out of the 747s but that took a few years. For quite a while you could book a business class ticket and select a seat in the old First Class (with biz service.) It was awesome.

  14. @JC

    you get full amenity regardless… the new crew will distribute new amenity kits at the beginning of each flight.

  15. @ Nick — You do have to be connecting to/from a Qantas flight. In my case, I get to Los Angeles at 9AM and leave the next morning at 8AM, since I’m on the later Sydney to Los Angeles flight which doesn’t allow for a same day connection. So up to 24 hours is as long as you can wait.

  16. @ David C — Thanks for the report. Hmmm, wondering if they’ll even have a check-in counter open at 8AM, since presumably most people are connecting from other flights and not overnighting before taking the flight.

  17. @ Josh — Mainly wifi, frankly. At the end of the day I can be productive with wifi, and that’s tougher to do without it. But for the novelty certainly agree.

  18. @ Joey — Hmmm, I think they used to fly an A330 on the route, which doesn’t have first class. Not sure how the timing of that change in relation to when they made their 747s three cabin planes.

  19. @ JC — Yep, you should be able to get amenities on both flights regardless. If they don’t offer proactively, just ask nicely and I’m sure they’ll give you a second pair.

  20. @ Ben – The 330 was actually just a temporary stop-gap for a few years while loads were low. Prior to that, the 747 with First Class was the status quo at JFK since as long as I’ve been breathing.

    Re: “24 hours is as long as you can wait.” Have you tested this thoroughly? At least 3 times, I’ve had AA ticket a stop in LA of days. But haven’t tried in about 2-3 years.

  21. I have not tried the specific QF 747 LAX-JFK, but from experiences of flying lots of AA and QF I could even tell that QF J food/drinks are just miles ahead of AA F, that it is no brainer like Josh was saying. And after 13 hours SYD-LAX of not having someone next to you, it is ok to have someone (your dad?) next to you for the next 4.30 hrs on a lie flat QF J at the nose of 744. Going in and out of the TBI terminal is also cooler!

    I also did book PER-SYD-LAX-JFK-YVR AA Award with PER-SYD 744 nose J, overnight, SYD-LAX F 388, then stop for 2 months (too bad, not allow anymore), then AA F for a 24 hours in NYC, then CX F to YVR. I am still not sure how it was ticketed because QF does not publish that routing rule…

  22. I’ve flown this segment many times in both directions. The LAX-JFK segment tends to be filled with exhausted passengers connecting from SYD, MEL and BNE, so the crew tends to feed everyone pretty quickly (a “light lunch” in Business and Premium Economy, and a standard lunch in Economy), and then they let everyone go to sleep for the short trip (cut by an hour thanks to the 747).

    The cabin crew turns around at JFK, and flies the return route the same night (they used to overnight in NYC, but haven’t for many years). As a result, the crew is often a little tired on the JFK-LAX segment, although the meal service (“Dinner” in all classes) is more relaxed and elaborate on this sector.

    If you are continuing on, by the time you re-board at LAX, everyone is pretty tired, although the crew is new. The meal served is a “Supper”, which is pretty much the same as the “light lunch” mentioned above, with the larger meal being served as breakfast.

    Of course, Qantas is great in all classes, so access to snacks, drinks, and excellent Aussie wines and beers is a given.

  23. I have done LAX/JFK sector on QF at least 10 times and in all classes of travel. It’s a great flight!

    And if booking through Qantas then you can certainly have a stopover in LAX and continue entirely on QF metal.

  24. I flew a UA 767 from iah to iad with fully flat business first….a lot better than a 737 for same price…I think it was continuing on to Munich

  25. @Lantean @Lucky – Thank you!! I guess this means I’ll get 2 amenity kits whenever I book fifth freedom flights where I’m taking both legs 😉

  26. @JC

    yes, it’s always fun to get more free skincare and PJs. i like CX PJs… but their amenity kit is seriously lacking, especially in terms of reusability. i was also not crazy about the men’s skincare… next time i actually think i would ask for ladies’ kit.

    actually, you can get both since you’re taking two legs. if you don’t like the first one give the other one to a friend.
    😉

  27. I have flown LAX JFK LAX in J class on QF a few times and 1 time YVR JFK on CX in J class. CX was a few years back when their schedule left YVR late morning ;timing used to be better). Awesome! The QF flight is a great way to fly a wide body a/c on a domestic leg with international service. The Crew were better on LAX JFK than the return, guessing because the do the trip in one day (no layover in NYC), so I am sure they are exhausted when they do the JFK LAX leg. Both great experiences!

  28. From the Way-back machine: TW used to fly a 747 LAX-JFK-BOS, and an L-1011 SFO-JFK-PHL (as I recall they were flights 16 and 80). They were timed so you could “Change at Jamaica” and effectively fly a one-stop wide-body SFO/LAX to BOS/PHL.

    At the time as a Long Island native living in BOS, I would fly the BOS-JFK-BOS 747 for something like $25 r/t and be upgraded to J or F with my Gold Card. Sweet.

  29. Please tell me what is going on with CX award space for JFK-YVR?? It’s a given that space is always avail, just went to book my vacay to Turks and Caicos and no space at all for the next 2 months in J or F 🙁

  30. If you are in J Class and flying alone, there are two seats at Row 5 on the QF 747-400 that are solo seats. They are the first seats behind the 1 L/R doors.

  31. Yeah, I tried with Avios and Asia Miles and Alaska Miles and nothing at all for the next 30 days. I usually only redeem for the YVR-JFK CX route since it is such a good value. Looking forward to meeting you and your counterparts at FTU in WAS next month 🙂

  32. The issue of customs is the deal breaker. I’d rather go through customs in LA and then take a domestic flight than go through customs at JFK.

  33. @JC You do not necessarily get an extra amenity kit when flying tag legs (fifth freedom or otherwise) in addition to the main leg. It varies by airline, and sometimes by route.

  34. There are a few countries allow domestic flights operated by international carriers, eG Australia (United used to operate SYD MEL) and Chile. The US unfortunately does not which is a pity considering the competition the domestic carriers need.

    P.S. The tagon from JFK LAX is known as Qantas 1-Oh-Late, though they’re changing the flight number to QF18 next year.

  35. @ Michael — You don’t go through customs in NY. Once you land in LA it’s a domestic flight from there.

  36. “@ DolphinAir747 — Nope, it can only be booked in conjunction with a Qantas longhaul flight.”

    Well I have a reservation with JFK-LAX on QF18 and then LAX-PPT on TN101 all in business, I found the TN101 availability asked the agent to reserve the award and mentioned that I need to start my trip from New York area, she proactively found the availability on QF18 and told me that it can only be used with any international flight connection.”

    Now Air Tahiti Nui opened up availability for one day before my reservation date, but only coach at the QF18 :(. I am still deciding if I go with the original reservation (with 1 fewer day at paradise) or jump into coach on QF18 (no availability on AA either) and business on TN…

  37. we have just flown syd – lax – jfk on QF11 and return jfk – lax on QF18, break for about two weeks, then in a few days time QF12 home lax – syd

    You can break the trip in both directions. Great deal to see the west coast and the east coast of USA.
    A very comfortable trip in J

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *