While the glory days of A380 double-deckers across the Tasman remain a dim memory, the only two airlines flying the route are putting some of their underemployed widebody planes to work across the Ditch.
That's mainly good news for passengers — especially those up the front — who enjoy more space than on the Airbus A320/21s Air New Zealand flies or the Qantas Boeing 737-800s.
Air New Zealand has flown its Dreamliners to Australia before — notably to Adelaide and Perth — but passengers now have a better shot at getting a seat on one of the widebody planes flying the shorter hops from Auckland to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
These planes not only have jetlag-busting features that all aboard enjoy, but also a business class cabin not found in the airline's narrow-body aircraft.
The same goes for Qantas. You're now far more likely to be getting aboard an Airbus A330 — a twin-aisle aircraft — where at the front of the plane there are Business Suites — dubbed mini first class by some frequent flyers.
The forward-facing seats offer more privacy than the herringbone layout of Air New Zealand's Business Premier, a decade-old product for which a replacement was close to being unveiled before the pandemic struck.
In economy, Air NZ's Dreamliners have a 3-3-3 configuration and Qantas' A330 seats (which automatically include a meal and a stowed bag) are arranged 2-4-2.
While there's more capacity aboard the bigger widebodies, and thus more passengers, having two aisles means embarking and disembarking is usually quicker and more pleasant.
Both airlines are starting to offer economy fares more familiar to pre-pandemic travellers, coming down to about $160 one-way on sale. Business class fares are typically around $1000, although there are some good deals on the Australian airline.
Bloomberg reports that in other countries, passengers with air miles or money to burn after a year of largely being grounded are now splurging on premium-class tickets.
Here, Flight Centre says its bookings by corporates - often the occupants of premium cabins - are recovering much more slowly than leisure travellers, while Air New Zealand says it is not seeing any sign of the uptake for business class spiking yet.
Virgin Australia, which had a boutique business class cabin on its 737s, will not be returning to New Zealand in force this year although it will run limited services into Queenstown.
A price snapshot shows that - booked a week out for Thursday, May 20 - Qantas' lowest one-way business class fare between Auckland and Sydney is $609 (although it is $1076 the day before and $997 the day after). Air New Zealand's business class fare for May 20 is $982 and is the same price throughout the week.
When's the best time to get an Air NZ Dreamliner flight?
Air New Zealand currently has core daily morning flights for 787-9 aircraft and the best times are:
Auckland-Sydney NZ103/104: 9:00am from Auckland / 11:40am from Sydney
Auckland-Brisbane NZ145/146: 9:15am from Auckland /12:15pm from Brisbane
Auckland-Melbourne NZ123/124: 8:55am from Auckland / 12:05pm from Melbourne
The airline says that customers who are Koru members are able to take advantage of the Air New Zealand lounges in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Eligible passengers also have access to Qantas lounges in Adelaide, Hobart and the Gold Coast where Air New Zealand doesn't have lounges.
When's the best time to get on board a Qantas A330?
A330s are flown on the morning departure from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney (roughly between 8-9.30am) to Auckland, and the afternoon departure from Auckland back to those cities (roughly between 3-4.10pm).
Melbourne and Sydney have a daily A330 service and Brisbane currently has an A330 service four days per week (Mon, Thu, Fri, Sun). Auckland-Cairns will be operated by the A330 when the route launches in early June. There are up to 60 A330 flights a week.
Qantas is operating up to 100 737 flights across the Tasman each week and these aircraft have 12 business class seats, 56cm wide, in a 2-2 layout with a generous recline. Fares don't differentiate between A330- and 737-operated flights.
Platinum One, Platinum and Gold frequent flyers along with Business customers and Qantas Club members have access to Qantas' First Lounges in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane until the airline's other international lounges reopen. Eligible travellers from the Gold Coast will be able to access the Qantas Club. Customers connecting to Qantas international flights from other destinations around Australia also have access to the airline's network of more than 30 domestic and regional lounges.
With Qantas' lounges in New Zealand currently closed, Qantas will offer Platinum and Gold frequent flyers and Qantas Club members access to Air New Zealand lounges in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.
• While the Tasman is largely a two-airline operation for now, passengers pining for the comforts of the A380s which frequently plied the route have some hope in Emirates' booking system. Its double-decker is slated to fly from Christchurch to Sydney from the end of October.