Qantas upgrades Sydney – San Francisco route to Dreamliner from December

A guide to Qantas' Boeing 787 Dreamliner flights to Asia, Europe and the US

Qantas airplane | Point Hacks
GUIDE: Using Points
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
TIME TO READ: 5 minutes
POSTED: May 8, 2019
UPDATED: May 16, 2019
LOYALTY PROGRAMS: Qantas Frequent Flyer, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Alaska Air Mileage Plan, American Airlines AAdvantage, British Airways Executive Club

Later this year, the Queen of the Skies will disappear from flights to the US mainland.

In this guide, I keep you updated with the latest confirmed routes the Dreamliner will be served by, explain the differences between the three cabin products, and advise how to get the most value out of using your points to fly the Qantas 787 Dreamliner.

Newest route: Sydney – San Francisco

Currently, this route is serviced by an old Boeing 747 6-7 times a week. However, Qantas has announced that:

From 4 December 2019, customers travelling between Sydney and San Francisco will experience the Dreamliner’s next generation Economy, Premium Economy and Business cabins.

The change is timed with the phased delivery of the airline’s six additional Dreamliners as the more efficient aircraft gradually replaces the Boeing 747 aircraft on Qantas’ international network by the end of 2020.

This is good news for Business Class passengers, who will switch up the Skybed II on the 747:

Qantas Boeing 747 Business Class seat
Qantas Boeing 747 Business Class

for the airline’s newest-generation seat.

Qantas Boeing 787 Dreamliner Business Class cabin
Qantas Boeing 787 Dreamliner Business Class

I took the Melbourne – San Francisco service back five months ago and was impressed with the modern seat and good sense of privacy. However, I do not agree with Qantas saying that it has been ‘nicknamed “mini First Class” by some frequent flyers’—that’s misleading.

Premium Economy passengers will get a more modern seat but it’s quite cramped. Those in Economy Class will experience an increase in space on the newer aircraft compared to the current one.

Unfortunately, you can expect a decrease in award availability on this route by approximately a quarter. The number of Business Class seats will decrease from 58 to 42, whilst Premium Economy shrinks from 36 to 28 seats. In fact, I cannot see any Business Class availability in either direction on the new aircraft from 4 December 2019 to the end of the award calendar, i.e. April 2020.

If you can find award availability in the future, a one-way Business Class flight will set you back 96,000 Qantas Points. Other points currencies that can be used, such as Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, are detailed later in this guide.

Qantas Boeing 787 Dreamliner routes

The airline is looking to capitalise on Perth as a hub between the East Coast of Australia and Europe. Then, flights from Europe tracking back to Perth will stop in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane before continuing onto North America.

The aircraft is gradually taking over routes currently operated by the airline’s older Boeing 747s, such as Sydney to Vancouver, Santiago and Johannesburg. All 747s are slated to be retired by the end of 2020.

Confirmed routes

Tickets are on sale for the following routes:

  • Melbourne – Los Angeles
  • Brisbane – Los Angeles – New York JFK
  • Melbourne – San Francisco
  • Sydney – San Francisco (from 4 December 2019)
  • Melbourne – Perth – London
  • Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane – Hong Kong
Qantas Boeing 787 Dreamliner routes as of May 2019

Rumoured routes

Chicago is most likely to be announced as the next destination.

  • Sydney – Chicago
  • Perth – Paris/Berlin/Rome/Frankfurt
  • Melbourne/Brisbane – Dallas/Fort Worth

The ‘swing strategy’ looks something like this:

Qantas Boeing 787 Dreamliner rumored routes as of May 2019

Qantas also put out a call to Boeing and Airbus in mid-2017 to work on new long-range aircraft that could carry a full cabin nonstop from the East Coast to New York and London. This would negate the need to stop in Los Angeles or Singapore on the way. However, this aircraft has not yet been developed and wouldn’t come into service until after 2022.

The cabins

Qantas is joining many airlines in shunning First Class and investing in a great Business Class product, as well as revamping its Premium Economy and Economy offerings.

Business Class

The much-loved Business Suites which have been installed on Airbus A330s flying between the East Coast capitals and Perth are also on the Dreamliners. You can also find this product on flights to Asian destinations such as Hong Kong, Tokyo, Bangkok, Shanghai and Manila.

However, the fixed divider in between the centre seats has become an adjustable one, offering more versatility for solo and accompanied travellers.

Qantas 787 Business Class

There are 42 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, offering direct-aisle access to all passengers.

Qantas 787 Business Class

Premium Economy Class

At first glance, the Premium Economy seats look plush but also cramped if the passenger in front of you is in recline mode.

Qantas 787 Business Class

There are 28 seats in a 2-3-2 configuration over four rows and each seat has a mesh hammock for your feet as well as a pillow that attaches to your headrest.

Qantas 787 Business Class seat

You can clip a tablet on in front of your inflight entertainment screen. You’ll also have two USB ports to yourself and one AC power outlet to share with the person next to you.

Economy Class

There are 166 Economy Class seats across a 3-3-3 configuration. You’ll get an extra inch of pitch than you can currently find on the Airbus A380s that Qantas flies to London, Los Angeles and Dallas/Fort Worth.

Qantas 787 Economy Class

Welcome additions are USB charging ports and a tablet holder, in keeping with the airline’s move to streaming on your own device rather than maintaining expensive inflight entertainment systems (IFEs).

How to use points on these flights

The five main points currencies Australia-based travellers can use on Qantas flights are:

The US programs offer the lowest redemption pricing, with the most common way to get hold of them being through AAdvantage and Alaska Mileage Plan buy miles promotions.

Closer to home, Asia Miles offer good value and are easily transferred from a number of credit card rewards programs, whilst Qantas Points are the most popular points currency in the country and can also be used to upgrade a cash ticket.

Avios are best saved for short-haul domestic flights.

Here is a comparison of one-way pricing between these points currencies on select international routes:

RouteClassAAdvantageAlaska Mileage PlanAsia MilesQantas PointsAvios
Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane - Hong KongBusiness40,000N/A50,00060,00075,000
Premium EconomyN/AN/A35,00045,00050,000
Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane - Los Angeles/San FranciscoBusiness80,00055,00090,00096,000150,000
Premium EconomyN/A47,50065,00072,000100,000
Perth - LondonBusiness85,000N/A90,000112,000150,000
Premium EconomyN/AN/A65,00084,000100,000

Important notes:

  • AAdvantage does not allow Premium Economy redemptions on partners (for now)
  • Alaska Mileage Plan does not allow routings between Australia and Europe; routings between Australia and Asia must be on Cathay Pacific, not Qantas

Award availability

You are most likely to find open award seats on these flights when the Qantas award calendar opens up 353 days before departure. In addition, you may also find seats in the week leading up to when you want to fly.

Remember, reward seats in Economy Class are easier to find than those in premium cabins.

If you can’t find availability on Qantas, the most common alternatives for Business and Premium Economy seats are:

You can learn how to search for frequent flyer award space most efficiently.

Where to credit miles

If you are purchasing a cash ticket on one of these flights and want the most value out of the points you’ll get out of it, check out our guide on how to choose which program to credit your frequent flyer points to.

Summing up

It’s great news that Qantas is continuing to invest in its superior Business Class on this new aircraft.

Unfortunately, the updated Premium Economy product has been a miss, but getting a little more room in Economy Class is never a bad thing.

We’ll keep our ears open for announcements about where it will fly next and what award availability trends emerge.

Supplementary images courtesy Andrew Dean.

Qantas upgrades Sydney – San Francisco route to Dreamliner from December was last modified: May 16th, 2019 by Matt Moffitt