Which Airlines Offer First Class Travel In Australia?

A first class seat remains the holy grail for many travellers

Which Airlines Offer First Class Travel In Australia?

Image: Qantas

Here are the airlines offering first-class seats flying out of Australia, and how we reckon they stack up.

A first class seat remains the holy grail for many travellers, but most airlines have discontinued the cabin type. Now, just a handful of carriers, including Emirates, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Qatar, British Airways, and Japan Airlines, offer first class on their flights to and from Australia. 

While the choice is small, these six airlines all do first class in their own way, so if you are lucky enough to fly first class, there is some reasonable product variety. If your winter travel plans include flying at the front of the plane, here’s a summary of the airlines, routes, and aircraft types offering first class seats to and from Australia.

First class on Emirates A380s and B777s

Emirates offers first class on their A380 and B777 flights between Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Dubai. You can also pick up a first class seat on the Emirates fifth freedom flights between Sydney – Christchurch and Melbourne – Singapore.

There may be free-flowing Dom Perignon. However, the headline act in the Emirates A380 first class cabin are the two showers. Alas, you’ll need to use the showers in the lounge if you are flying first class on an Emirates B777.

Emirates awards bookings are available via the Qantas website using Qantas frequent flyer points. But Emirates first class award redemptions in and out of Australia can be elusive, and Emirates is known for its excessively high redemption fees and taxes.

Image: Turn Left For Less

Qatar first class from Sydney and Perth

Qatar offers first class on their A380s, which the airline uses on its Sydney and Perth routes. You might ask why fly first class on Qatar when they have the Qsuite, but unfortunately, Qatar hasn’t installed the Qsuite on its A380s.

Qatar Airways first class isn’t as flashy as the Emirates offer, and the seats don’t feature sliding doors. However, you do get Krug champagne, exceptional bed linen, and arguably the best walk-up bar in the sky (which you share with the business-class riff-raff). 

Australian frequent flyers can use Qantas and Virgin Australia frequent flyers points to book Qatar Airways award seats. But due to the bad blood between Qatar and Qantas, Qatar is restricting the supply of premium cabin award seats to Qantas. Virgin Australia frequent flyers will have more luck, although the fees and taxes are hefty.

Image: Qatar

First class on the Qantas A380

Qantas also offers first class on its A380s, which fly from Sydney and Melbourne to Los Angeles and Sydney to London Heathrow via Singapore. Qantas first class isn’t the flashiest cabin on the market – it’s a bit like the Qatar first class product without the nice purple mood lighting/ But Qantas first class remains a deeply comfortable flight experience.

The Qantas first class seats are huge and more private than they appear. While not as look-at-me as the Gulf carriers, the food and beverage offerings are more than good, and sometimes it’s just nice to have an Australian cabin crew.

Qantas frequent flyers are in the box seat for award redemptions, although the airline also makes them available to Oneworld carriers and other partners. Recently, DMARGE spied some first class classic award availability on the Sydney – Los Angeles route, starting at 162,800 points plus fees and taxes.

Image: Runway Girl

Japan Airlines first class to Sydney

Japan Airlines currently offers first class on its B777s scooting between Sydney and Tokyo Haneda. But buyer beware, JAL do seasonal equipment swaps on this route, and typically, JAL first class in and out of Sydney is not available year round.

Similar to Qantas, JAL first class is understated and aging (gracefully), but it transforms into a 199-centimetre flat-bed, and you have a choice of four windows to look out. However, the real star of the JAL first class flight experience is the refined Japanese food. It may not be your cup of tea, but plenty of people rave about it.

As a Oneworld member, Qantas frequent flyers can redeem JAL award tickets via the Qantas website. An added bonus is first class passengers can use the excellent Qantas first class lounge in Sydney and JAL’s first class lounge at Haneda.

Image: Live And Let’s Fly

Singapore’s suites set the benchmark

Singapore Airlines offers first class seats on its B777 flights from Sydney and Melbourne and first class suites on its A380 flights from the same cities. Aircraft servicing other Singapore Airlines Australian ports don’t offer first class.

While the B777 first class seat product is outstanding, the suites on the A380s are the best first class product servicing the Australian market. Ignoring the already exceptional soft product, we’re talking about a mini cabin with an upholstered leather swivel chair and a separate bed. Depending on your booked suite number, a double-bed configuration is also possible. 

Members of Singapore’s Krisflyer program get first dibs at award redemptions, but members of other Star Alliance frequent flyer programs also get access, as do Virgin Australia Velocity members. As an added bonus, Singapore usually makes a decent number of redemptions available to Velocity members.

Image: The Points Guy

British Airways seasonal first class to Singapore and onto London

Over the winter, British Airways runs one of its B787-9’s down to Sydney via Singapore daily. While the BA business class product on this particular aircraft type is rubbish, it does have first class, which isn’t rubbish.

This is a good, if unexceptional first class product. The seats are good, the bedding is good, the food is good, the wine list is good, the cabin crew are (usually) good. Everything is good, which is fine, but it’s not compelling enough to make me want a flight diversion to Darwin and a few more hours in the sky.

Image: One Mile At A Time

While there isn’t a lot of first class product put into the Australia market, there are three options on the Melbourne – Singapore and Sydney – Singapore routes, and each of the competitors has a distinct first class product. At least it’s not a choice of the same thing.

Etihad first class (along with its Residence apartment), Korean Air first class, and American Airlines first class are no longer deployed into the Australian market. There is some talk Etihad may resume A380 flights to Sydney, which would see the return of first class. Fingers crossed.