My 14 hour Red-Eye flight from Sydney to Los Angeles

During the first half of 2017 I flew with American Airlines on AA72 for a 14 hour red-eye flight from Sydney to Los Angeles. It’s a mid-morning flight that arrives into LAX around 7am, ideal for starting your trip in LA or catching a connecting flight onwards across continental USA, which is what I had planned.

  • Route : Sydney – Los Angeles
  • Airline : American Airlines
  • Flight: AA72
  • Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
  • Cabin : Business Class
  • Points used : 80,000 AAdvantage Miles plus $81 in taxes for a one way trip
  • How to earn points? Head over to our frequent flyer cards page and look for cards that earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points, which can be redeemed for flights with American Airlines (among other partners).

This trip was a number of firsts for me. This was my first flight with American Airlines. My first time to fly to Europe via the USA. And it was my first stop in Los Angeles LAX airport.

I’d flown the Kangaroo Route from Australia to Europe many, many times before, but this time I wanted to try something different. I wanted to go the other direction via the USA. And so began my journey on what would be a massive round-the-world trip in 10 days — booked using frequent flyer points.

American Airlines website
American Airlines run regular promotions to buy AA miles at a discount, offering frequent flyers opportunities to fly at the pointy end for less.
American Airlines

Booking The Flight With Points

At the start of 2017 I had purchased a bucket load of AAdvantage Miles knowing that later on that year I’d be flying on an international flight with either American Airlines or one of their codeshare partners such as Qantas.

(You may not know this, but you can buy AAdvantage Miles directly from American Airlines and hold onto them for travel at some point in the future. At the time of writing, there was another promotion running to buy AAdvantage Miles with a bonus 10% discount.)

I booked my business class seat using 80,000 AAdvantage Miles and paid for the $81 in taxes and surcharges—an excellent deal considering what these seats typically sell for.

If I had used Qantas points to book the same seat on AA72, then it would have cost 96,000 Qantas points and $112 in taxes and surcharges.

But here's the more interesting comparison...

The exact same seat on the same flight, bought with cash, would have cost me around AU$8,700. Instead, I was able to get a value of approximately 9.09 cents per AAdvantage Mile for this redemption (calculated as points required divided by the cost).

Qantas Business Class Lounge at Sydney International Airport
The entrance to the Qantas Business Class Lounge at Sydney International Airport
David Boyd, Credit Card Compare

Pre-flight Lounge Access

One of my favourite benefits of flying business is getting access to the airport lounge. And since American Airlines is a codeshare partner of Qantas, I got to hang out in the Qantas Business Lounge at Sydney International Airport before boarding my flight.

Some may find this contentious, but in my opinion the international terminal at Sydney International Airport isn’t too shabby at all by international standards. It may not be the best in the world, but it definitely isn't the worst.

Sydney International Terminal
The shops at Sydney International Terminal have improved a lot.
David Boyd, Credit Card Compare

In fact, it has improved so much after the conclusion of the recent renovation work that it's now questionable whether it's better to head to the the Qantas Business Lounge or just put in the time at one of the many upscale restaurants, bars, and cafes. This is especially the case when you're cutting it tight and don't have a lot of time to play with. There is a good selection of shops to browse too (and not just the usual souvenir fare).

However, if you have more than an hour or two before your flight starts boarding, you'll soon get bored. If I had to choose between 3 or 4 hours in some random cafe or a spell relaxing in the lounge, I know where I would go.

After connecting from a short domestic flight, I was really looking forward to a refreshing shower before my flight, powering up my devices, getting some food, and just relaxing in a comfortable seat before boarding.

The Qantas Business Class Lounge

Once through security and immigration, go past all the shops and up the escalator from the shopping concourse. Once on the upper level, walk past the entrance to the Qantas First Class lounge to find the entrance to the Business Lounge.

The Qantas Business Lounge in Sydney International Airport is regarded as the airline's best business class lounge in Australia. It certainly stacks up well compared to my experiences with Qantas lounges in Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth in terms of facilities, location, and view.

It is quite a long and spacious lounge, decorated with a high-end style. However, it gets pretty busy at peak times since Qantas, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and British Airways members—among others—all have access to it.

The lounge itself caters to a broad spectrum of travellers. You'll find a mix of suited and booted business travellers in the lounge (as you would expect) and plenty of relaxed holiday-makers too. So don’t feel intimidated. Just stick to the dress code.

If you've ever been in a Qantas Business Lounge, you'll be familiar with their well-stocked buffet, from which you can take whatever you want. You'll have a fairly typical choice of fresh fruit, yoghurts, cold meats, and hot food.

I generally go for light food before flying, but only so there's plenty of room left to enjoy the onboard meal!

Food and drink selection in Qantas Business Lounge at Sydney International Airport
The food and drink selection in Qantas Business Lounge at Sydney International Airport.
Sydney CBD from inside the Qantas Business Lounge at Sydney International Airport.
Sydney's iconic CBD skyline from inside the Qantas Business Lounge at Sydney International Airport. The tail of the my American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER is just visible in the middle.
David Boyd, Credit Card Compare

Off in the distance, you can see Sydney CBD. The view here is quite limited because the lounge itself is actually set back inside the building, thereby impinging the view over the apron below and the skyline off in the distance. Having said that, the view is a lot more interesting than what you typically get... unless you frequent the outdoor pool at Singapore Changi!

American Airlines livery
The updated American Airlines livery—refreshed in 2013 with the help of Future Brand—is sleek, modern, and classy.
Future Brand / American Airlines

Boarding

To get from the Qantas Lounge to the boarding gate was a short 5-minute walk (maximum). The separate jet bridge takes business class travellers directly into the business class cabin with minimal fuss. Economy class passengers enter the plane separately.

Inside the jet bridge at Sydney International Airport
The view from inside the jet bridge to American Airlines flight AA72.
Friendly greeting onboard AA72
A friendly greeting from cabin crew aboard American Airlines flight AA72. The snack galley, visible on the right of this image, comes in handy on a long haul flight.

I really appreciate a bit of banter with the cabin crew. So I enjoyed the pleasant American cabin crew who were upbeat and chatty. They were happy to take a moment to chat and get to know who I was, which was a friendly exchange.

This is a marked difference from the typical no-nonsense (bordering on gruff) treatment I've had in the past from cabin crew on many a Qantas flight.

Takeoff!

Taxiing out at Sydney International Airport.
A Qantas 737 lined up for takeoff as flight AA72 taxis out. This was just one of at least 10 aircraft movements I counted before we took off.
David Boyd, Credit Card Compare
Long Reef Point from flight AA72
Our pilot was clearly not in the mood to wait around and really throttled those huge GE90 engines out of Sydney. As we climbed to altitude above Sydney’s northern beaches, my last view of Australia—and land for that matter—was Long Reef Point.
David Boyd, Credit Card Compare
Tasman Sea from flight AA72
A sunny view of the Tasman Sea taken just a few miles off the coast of Sydney.
David Boyd, Credit Card Compare

The American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER Business Class Cabin

American Airlines AA72 Business Class Cabin
The Business Class Cabin on American Airlines AA72. The herringbone layout affords a sense of privacy and the sleek, minimal design gives the space a professional feel. Some might say it's too clinical, but I liked it.
David Boyd, Credit Card Compare
American Airlines AA72 Business Class Cabin
The Zodiac Cirrus seats are private and in herringbone layout favoured by American Airlines, every passenger gets direct aisle access.
David Boyd, Credit Card Compare
American Airlines B777-300ER Business Class seat
The Zodiac Cirrus seat in this American Airlines B777-300ER had plenty of storage, with more than enough space to the side to keep a laptop, iPad, or reading material handy without having to stow them away.
David Boyd, Credit Card Compare

Inside, the business class cabin has a clean, modern look and it retains that “business” look and feel. There’s a distinct lack of bling by comparison to the Middle Eastern carriers (Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways) or even Singapore Airlines.

American Airlines roster a trusty Boeing 777-300 ER to serve this route. The business class cabin is configured in the herringbone 1-2-1 layout, which I really like. This is the same configuration you’ll find on Virgin Australia, Qatar Airways, and Cathay Pacific long haul aircraft. The business cabin of my flight in April was fully booked with not a single empty seat.

The cabin layout lends itself well to privacy because you’re facing away from the aisle. Once you’re in your seat you don’t really notice anyone else thanks also to the high sides surrounding the seat.

You barely notice people walking up and down the aisles.


The most important thing is your seat. My home for the next 14 hours. Thankfully, seats are fully adjustable and lay flat to make a comfortable bed when fully reclined. And there’s more than enough room in the footwell to really stretch out. Each seat comes with a big comfortable blanket and pillow shown here stored in the footwell area. AA also give business travellers a well-stocked amenities kit to make the flight more comfortable.

As for the In-Flight-Entertainment (IFE) system, I was impressed. The decent sized touch screens have a UI that’s easy to navigate. You wouldn’t believe how many IFEs on other airlines that are buggy or clunky to use. I watched 2 movies from the 100’s of on-demand movies to choose from.

I purchased a $19 Wi-Fi pass to get me online during the whole flight. But I shouldn’t have bothered because it was so slow and patchy that I gave up. Frankly, Wi-Fi on any plane rarely ever works.

Interestingly for me, I was sitting a row in front of World Champion Surfer CJ Hobgood . He’s a bit of a surfing hero of mine but I thought it better to leave him alone instead of interrupting his flight home. This is what flying business class cabins produce, a much more private flying experience where people tend to leave each other to enjoy the flight in peace. This is a large part of the appeal. You’re not seating uncomfortably close to a completely random person for 14 hours.

Food & Drink

Salad and couscous on flight AA72
Healthy salad greens and pomegranate with a mediterranean couscous served aboard flight AA72.
David Boyd, Credit Card Compare

Not long into the flight, the friendly crew served up my first meal of the flight.

I opted for something light and didn’t take pictures of the food. It's certainly not as exciting as an Arabic mezze platter on Emirates but it was healthy and high quality. Trust me, it was pretty good. No complaints from me! 

The Snack Galley

American Airlines B777-300ER snack galley
The snack galley aboard the American Airlines B777-300ER.
David Boyd, Credit Card Compare

The blue LED lights above the snack galley make it the most striking part of the cabin. More importantly, it is constantly replenished as the flight progresses. You can go up and get what you want, when you want. And if they don’t have something that you want you can always ask one of the flight attendants.

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean
Sunset over the Pacific Ocean is a beautiful collage of colour in the sky.
David Boyd, Credit Card Compare

After a few movies and some dinner, this was the view from the wing from as we head into the night somewhere over the Pacific. I always find sunset creates a mesmerising spectrum of colour over the clouds. Time for sleep.

Speaking of which, the flat bed was comfortable. Even without the crew making up my bed with an extra layer of padding, the lay flat bed and blanket supplied was enough. I managed to get to sleep just fine.

Sunrise over the Pacific Ocean
Sunrise over the Pacific Ocean is a beautiful, colourful thing.
David Boyd, Credit Card Compare

After the darkness comes the light! Good morning USA as the sun rises somewhere over the clouds west of Los Angeles. Time to shake off the sleepy head and get prepped for landing.

American Airlines birds parked up at LAX.
American Airlines birds parked up at LAX.
David Boyd, Credit Card Compare

The view from inside the terminal after disembarking my flight was one dominated by American Airlines. Look at those grey skies! Thankfully I was only passing through Los Angeles.

Useful things I learned on this flight

Use SeatGuru to help pick the best seats away from toilets or busy areas. 10A was a solid choice.

Think carefully about paying for inflight Wi-Fi. Hold onto your $19 at least until they fix it up properly.

If you’ve slept through the flight, don’t leave getting ready to get off the plane until the very last second. Organise your clothes, shoes, bags and last toilet visit so you can actually get off the plane promptly with everyone else … unlike me!

Always bring a pen for those tedious immigration paper forms. Thankfully, you no longer need to do the departure form from Sydney.

Try to avoid flying into LAX if possible. The airport has sucked for a long time. And even though the recently opened Tom Bradley international terminal feels like a high-end shopping mall — it is tremendous — the rest of the airport has suffered from years of neglect. The immigration processing is just painful and getting from one terminal to another is also painful.

Would I fly with American Airlines again?

I really enjoyed my first flight on American Airlines and had a great flight.

Without a doubt, for the right fare or points seat availability I will fly AA again.

I would still like to try the other options for this Sydney - Los Angeles route. High on my wishlist for the non-stop flights are Qantas and Virgin Australia. For the scenic route with the stopover, I'd love to try Hawaiian, Fiji Airways and Air New Zealand.

If you’ve flown this same route with American Airlines, leave a comment and tell everyone what it was like.

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