New Emirates Boeing 777-300ER First Class suite
New Emirates Boeing 777-300ER First Class suite. Photo: Emirates.

Before COVID-19, First Class was already in decline. Many airlines were choosing not to install First Class on their new planes, instead opting for ultra-luxe Business Class seats (like Qatar Airways’ Qsuites).

The pandemic has accelerated this decline. Of the few airlines that had been operating aircraft to Australia with First Class cabins before COVID-19, there are currently only three left. That doesn’t leave many options for people who are prepared to spend good money (or points!) for an ultra-premium flying experience.

While the pandemic has resulted in fewer international flights to Australia overall, there are two main reasons that First Class has been one of the first things to go.

When the pandemic first hit last year, many airlines quickly retired planes that had suddenly become surplus to their requirements. The first planes to be retired were the airlines’ oldest (i.e. closest to retirement age), largest (due to the loss of demand for long-haul travel) and the most expensive to operate (since airlines were forced to cut costs significantly).

Sadly, this generally resulted in airlines retiring or returning their Boeing 747-400s, Airbus A340s and Airbus A380s – the exact aircraft that were most likely to have First Class seating.

The other factor leading to a loss of First Class is the acute lack of demand for business and corporate travel due to the pandemic. Fewer people are travelling overall, and of those who are travelling now, an even smaller proportion than normal are prepared to pay top dollar for First Class. So, some airlines have simply decided it’s no longer worth investing in an ultra-premium First Class product.

There are some exceptions, however, to this trend! One is Emirates, which continues to offer First Class on most of its long-haul (and even short-haul) flights, including to all of its Australian destinations. Singapore Airlines has also now resumed offering First Class to Sydney, and China Southern (of all airlines) continues to offer First Class on it’s once-per-week A380 flights between Sydney and Guangzhou.

Qantas and British Airways are also both currently scheduled to resume offering First Class on certain international flights to and from Australia from 27 March 2022.

Unfortunately, Thai Airways, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways are no longer offering First Class to Australia at all. Thai Airways used to offer First Class on its Boeing 747 flights between Sydney and Bangkok, but this route has been taken over by a Boeing 777 without First Class. Similarly, Etihad and Qatar Airways are now only operating aircraft to Australia with Economy & Business seating available.

How to book First Class from Australia using points

Let’s take a closer look at exactly which international routes to and from Australia have First Class available in 2021 and beyond, and how you can book a seat using your frequent flyer points…

Emirates

Emirates continues to offer First Class on its Boeing 777 flights between Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Dubai.

From next month, Emirates will even resume flying its Airbus A380 between Sydney and Dubai. The Emirates A380 not only has more First Class seats than the 777, but it features the famous Emirates shower and on-board bar as well!

The Emirates A380 features an on-board shower for First Class passengers
The Emirates A380 features an on-board shower for First Class passengers. Photo: Emirates.

Emirates is also currently scheduling the return of its A380 onto the Sydney-Christchurch route from 1 July 2022, although this is subject to change.

Although it’s no longer possible to book Emirates First Class award seats through most frequent flyer programs, you can still redeem Qantas points or Emirates Skywards miles – subject to award availability, of course!

Emirates First Class award availability is wide open on the Sydney-Christchurch route from July next year. However, award availability on Emirates flights to Dubai seems very limited at the moment. There are a few seats showing as available on the Qantas website for travel in around 11 months from now. Some AFF members have been able to book successfully, either on the Qantas website or over the phone, but others have reported problems.

Emirates reward seats from Sydney to Christchurch
Emirates Classic Reward seats from Sydney to Christchurch are available to book on the Qantas website.

If available, a First Classic Reward from Sydney to Dubai with Emirates costs 170,800 Qantas Frequent Flyer points + $350.60 of taxes & carrier charges.

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines is currently offering First Class on one of its daily Sydney-Singapore flights operated by the Boeing 777-300ER. From 1 December 2021, Singapore Airlines will upgrade another of its daily Sydney-Singapore flights to the Airbus A380 which also has First Class seating.

All other Singapore Airlines flights to Australia are operated by other aircraft types like the Airbus A350-900 or Boeing 787-10 which do not have First Class cabins.

From next month, there are some Singapore Airlines flights with KrisFlyer Advantage awards available to book in First Class from Sydney to Singapore. These are mostly available to book on SQ212, which is the Boeing 777-300ER flight departing Sydney in the morning and doesn’t offer good connections through to Europe. There is very little award availability on SQ222, which is the A380 flight with a superior First Class product.

There is some Singapore Airlines First Advantage availability between Sydney and Singapore.
There is some Singapore Airlines First Advantage availability between Sydney and Singapore on the Singapore Airlines website.

There doesn’t seem to be much Saver award availability on Singapore Airlines First Class flights between Sydney and Singapore at the moment, but you can waitlist for a Saver seat on some flights for travel in 2022.

However, there is a little bit of First Saver availability via KrisFlyer on Singapore Airlines First Class flights between Singapore-Frankfurt and Frankfurt-New York. These are also Boeing 777-300ER flights.

Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300ER First Class
Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300ER First Class. Photo: Singapore Airlines.

There is a bit of Advantage availability between London and Sydney as well in Singapore Airlines First Class, but again, no Saver availability.

Singapore Airlines First Class award availability from London to Sydney on the Singapore Airlines website
Singapore Airlines First Class award availability from London to Sydney on the Singapore Airlines website.

Currently, Singapore Airlines award seats can only be booked using KrisFlyer miles. Singapore Airlines is not currently making award seats available to members of any partner airlines, including Virgin Australia.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: No First Class Saver Availability from SYD? (Advantage available)

China Southern

China Southern is currently flying its Airbus A380 between Sydney and Guangzhou once per week. First Class seats are available for sale on this flight, at a cost of around $12,000 one-way. But there doesn’t appear to be any award availability (in any class of travel) on this route for the foreseeable future. It’s also worth noting that China is not currently allowing international transits due to COVID-19.

Qantas

The Airbus A380 is the only aircraft in the Qantas fleet with a First Class cabin. While most of Qantas’ A380s are currently in long-term storage in California, the airline will return two of its superjumbo planes to service on the Sydney-Los Angeles route from 27 March 2022. First Class is already available for sale on these flights, and there is also a little bit of Classic Flight Reward availability that can be booked using Qantas Frequent Flyer points.

Read more: Qantas Releases A380 First Class Award Availability

New Qantas A380 First Class seat
New Qantas A380 First Class seat. Photo: Qantas.

British Airways

British Airways has not flown to Australia since April 2020. But it is currently planning to resume London-Singapore-Sydney flights on 27 March 2022. (This date is subject to change.)

Prior to COVID-19, British Airways used Boeing 777-300ERs for its flights to Australia. When it returns to the “kangaroo route”, British Airways will use the smaller and more fuel-efficient Boeing 787-9.

The good news for First Class connoisseurs is that the British Airways Boeing 787-9 does have 8 First Class seats in the nose of the plane.

British Airways Boeing 787-9 First Class
British Airways Boeing 787-9 First Class. Photo: British Airways.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any British Airways First Class award availability to or from Sydney any time in the next year. Even though the BA Reward Flight Finder website did seem to find a couple of dates with First availability, these seats were not actually available to book when we checked using British Airways Avios or other Oneworld frequent flyer programs.

 

Would you like assistance with redeeming your frequent flyer points for award flights? Frequent Flyer Solutions has reopened its Award Flight Assist service! Learn more →

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]

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Dan

I once had the opportunity to fly BA First and was bitterly disappointed. Other airlines (e.g. QR) have a superior hard and soft product in business class.

Croupier

So glad I got to try the SYD-BKK TG 747 F product a few times, the service, food and experience was amazing, not to mention the massage in the F lounge BKK.

What a steal that was for 40K United Miles.

Flyer

Yup _ agree TG F 747 and A380 even better! And you get a great First Lounge and a Spa with free 1hr massages at BKK

Bcons

Thought Etihad were still running their F-fitted 787s to Brisb ? As of this morning their website will sell me an F fare one way Syd to LHR in mid Jan for $10k (J prices $5K) with both flts on 787-9. Also had a look at Qatar but for last 2 days I cant get thr website to open timetable or price pages… Elsewhere hv seen their first A380s will resume flying mid Dec to LHR and Paris but no mention yet of Aust. Interesting that SQ will show me J scheds and prices Aust/Europe well into April but not… Read more »

Paul

Qantas isn’t really a first class product per se. It’s out of its league compared to other first carriers products. Maybe on par with BA which again is a good business class product at best.

Flyer

Yupo I agree

Flyer

Here here to that about BA aka Bloody Awful First -did it once SYD-SIN – the only great thing was use of the QF First Lounge at SYD