Qantas and its US partner American Airlines both offer daily flights between Sydney and Los Angeles on their fleet flagships – the Qantas Airbus A380 and American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER – with cushy first class cabins so you can luxe it up on the 13 hour trans-Pacific trek.
If you're looking to book first class with either airline, or gunning for an upgrade using your frequent flyer points, how do they compare?
Qantas vs American Airlines first class: the lounges
When flying out of Sydney, first class passengers of American Airlines and Qantas share access to the award-winning Qantas First Lounge.
Restaurant sittings are open to all guests but appointments for the Aurora Day Spa (below) are guaranteed if you're in Qantas first class, as you'll receive a phone call the day before you travel and given priority booking.
American Airlines' first class flyers, like those on other airlines, have to take their chances snaring a spot at the spa once they arrive at the lounge.
It's a small thing but it gives Qantas passengers the edge.
How about the return leg from Los Angeles?
Qantas flights depart from LAX's Tom Bradley International Terminal where the airline runs its own first class lounge to mirror that of Sydney or Melbourne, complete with a familiar Rockpool-inspired dining room and waiter service (but sans the day spa).
The American Airlines Sydney flight departs from Terminal 4, home to the AA-run Flagship Lounge:
It doubles as a domestic lounge for American Airlines flights within the USA, and is a solid effort by stateside standards, boasting self-serve Taittinger and tasty hot food in the evenings…
… but it feels more like a good business class lounge than something truly ‘first class’: so for the lounge lizards, Qantas wins this round.
Qantas vs American Airlines first class: the seats
Whichever airline you choose, you’re guaranteed direct aisle access from every first class seat, pyjamas, slippers and an ottoman that doubles as a ‘companion seat’ for hosting meetings or sharing a meal with a partner, friend or colleague in your first class suite.
Qantas surpasses American in the bed stakes with the seat itself going fully-flat and extending up to 212cm in length (or 6’ 11.5” for our North American readers)…
American Airlines adopts a similar suite-based approach to Qantas, although it's less private.
The seat goes fully flat but with a shorter overall length of 198cm (6’ 6”), and a mattress pad and blanket (below) versus the more comfortable sheepskin mattress, blanket and duvet combination on the Qantas A380.
Both suites offer AC and USB power plus 17-inch inflight entertainment monitors packed with a great range of movies, TV shows, music and games, while AA’s first class suite can also become your inflight office, thanks to a swivelling chair and a fold-out workspace...
... offering gorgeous views when the windows are opened:
Depending on the timing of your flight and your reason for travel, either could be the winner here: Qantas for sleeping and American Airlines for getting work done. (And in the work stakes, only American Airlines offers inflight Internet.)
Qantas vs American Airlines first class: the service
We’ve found the service in first class much more personalised and refined on Qantas than American Airlines.
For starters, Qantas’ head flight attendants (or CSMs) are armed with iPads to keep tabs on your personal preferences from flight to flight, which can sometimes mean a glass of your favourite wine arriving at the perfect moment or a simple note that you prefer to be addressed by your first name.
Some Qantas cabin crew are also trained as sommeliers, offering advice on which wines pair well with each course: particularly useful when indulging in one of Qantas’ extensive first class tasting menus…
… and when there’s vintage Champagne to enjoy including either the 2006 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs or the 2004 Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame Brut (varied by flight).
Added to that, Qantas crews tend to prepare your bed when you rise and change into your pyjamas, and also take a restaurant approach to dining by setting your table personally and completely…
... and finally, there's the option to sample an amazing degustation menu when flying from Sydney to Los Angeles.
By comparison, on American Airlines the approach seems more ‘do it yourself’ with the bedding left on your seat as you board the aircraft…
… and your cutlery delivered wrapped in a napkin for you to arrange:
Although friendly, we’ve also found AA’s first class service lacking attention to detail, with no wine list provided on our flight, the crew not aware of which Champagne was on-board (Deutz 2006 Brut Millésimé, noted only after asking to see the label) and the returning of jackets forgotten on landing.
Overall, while AA first class is without doubt a very comfortable way to fly, it’s hard for any airline to match the service and lounges that Qantas offers its own first class passengers.
More on Qantas/AA first class from the AusBT team:
- American Airlines Boeing 777 first class review: Sydney-Los Angeles
- Expert tips: make the most of the Qantas first class lounge
- United Airlines drops first class service to Australia
- Review: American A321T first class: Los Angeles-New York JFK
- A Qantas degustation: sampling the A380 first class tasting menu
- Up close with American Airlines' Sydney-LA first class suites
- The best seats in first class on the Qantas Airbus A380
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About Chris Chamberlin
Chris lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, an opera ticket and a glass of wine!