Qantas marked a big day on June 14, 2023, as it launched flight QF3, marking the Australian airline’s return to New York City with a flight that will now operate three days per week. The direct flight begins in Sydney (SYD), hops over the Tasman Sea into Auckland (AKL), spends two hours on the ground there, then continues nonstop all the way to New York’s JFK. The nonstop flight clocks in at about 16 hours, making it one of the top ten longest nonstop routes operated in the world today. QF4 is the same plane and flight, going from JFK-AKL-SYD on the “flying kangaroo,” as Qantas is affectionately called. RELATED: 10 Airport Security Hacks Every Traveler Needs to Know

Qantas invited to take the ride on the inaugural flight from AKL to JFK, on their new Boeing 787 Dreamliner that’s designed to carry 236 passengers from New Zealand’s lovely island shores to the Big Apple, and we jumped at the chance. The celebration went into full swing beginning in Auckland the night before, as Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce welcomed a big crowd to a rooftop party at the Park Hyatt Auckland, overlooking the Waitemata Harbour and featuring famed Australian didgeridoo musician David Williams and trumpet player James Morrison and lots of NYC-influenced foods.

The party continued at Auckland airport, where a New York-style soft-pretzel cart greeted guests including CEO Alan Joyce at check-in with free pretzels accompanied by a saxophonist; later, in the Qantas Business Class Lounge, there were more food treats, created by famed Australian chef Neil Perry (of Rockpool and Margaret restaurants), who joined us for the flight, along with his wife Samantha. Perry has created the menus as the Qantas creative director of food, beverage and service for many years, adding New York-inspired dishes to the QF3 and QF4 flights like spaghetti and meatballs, a beef hot dog with sauerkraut and classic NY cheesecake.

“We are using some amazing Australian produce to put our own spin on some of New York’s most famous food experiences,” Perry says – but we just had to mention that a soft pretzel must have mustard slathered on it to make it really an American treat!

Perry creates the menus on board, of course, and once everyone boarded in all three classes – Business (42 seats), Premium Economy (28) and Economy (165) – there was much to love. In Business class, Perry’s menus meant we stayed up longer than we should have, considering finding a way to sleep is key on a flight that lasts longer than 15 hours. The caviar bite atop a buckwheat blini was blissful, as was the seared snapper and luscious cheeses that finished off the meal.

When it came time for bed in the lie-flat beds, the newest amenity on Qantas Business Class is a pair of pajamas created by Rebecca Vallance, an Australian luxury fashion designer; and it’s pretty cool to see the airline’s CEO and top chef chatting together while in their PJs. Special to the inaugural flight were other treats, including a commemorative mug, branded baseball cap and even a certificate proving we were “official passengers” on the first flight.

But that’s how it went on the inaugural QF3 trip from Auckland to New York, and as the first QF3 flight landed at JFK it got even more fun, first with a water cannon celebratory salute from the fire trucks on the runway and ending with a raucous greeting at arrivals from a giant kangaroo and models wearing variations of the Empire State building, the Chrysler building and the Statue of Liberty as the flight arrived almost an hour ahead of schedule.

That early arrival on either end of the SYD-AKL-JFK roundtrip may not always be that far ahead of the winds, but even at 16 hours to Auckland, it is still the fastest way to make the trip from New York to New Zealand, one of the most scenic and beautiful countries on the planet.

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