Best seats in economy when flying to New York from Australia


You’ve purchased your ticket and the adventure of a lifetime is now a set date and you are excitedly counting down the days until you get to step on the plane from Australia and get off in New York. Whilst for some the mere fact of being able to get on a plane and experience the wonder of everything New York has to offer, others, like me, go to great lengths to make sure that I can get the best seat on the plane that my ticket can afford.

Aren’t all seats the same? Well yes and no, whilst each seat in the same cabin class are the same design, the location of each and the choice of where to sit can be the difference between a great start to a trip and a nightmare that lasts up to 20+ hours before you hits the streets of New York.

For example did you know that on some flights between Australia and Los Angeles and Dallas Fort-Worth, there is a seat in economy that instead of having a seat directly in front of it, there is a seat missing from the row in front and you have more leg room than passengers paying in excess of $10,000 for a business class ticket! Or did you know that if you are travelling with a partner or significant other you may want to try and get one of the few pairs of seats in economy at the back of aircraft where the seats are laid out in a 2-4-2 configuration as the fuselage of the aircraft tappers towards the back. has compiled a list of the top 5 seats (group of seats) which we believe offer the best value for money when travelling across the Pacific from Australia to the West Coast of America and beyond.

  1. Seat 71D on the Qantas A380
  2. Main Cabin Extra on American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER
  3. Upper Deck on the A380
  4. Aisle seat in the middle of the aircraft
  5. Two seats at the rear of the plane

Seat 71D on the Qantas A380

If you are keen to have the legroom of a business class seat at the price of economy and you are flying to either Los Angeles or Dallas Fort-Worth with Qantas, seat number 71D is for you. Due to the design of the Airbus A380 and the location of the crew rest area located between the floor of the economy cabin and the cargo hold, there is an emergency exit hatch located where seat 70D would normally be.

 As you can see from the picture below 71D is a normal economy seat with nothing in front of it until row 69 – making for a very comfortable flight across the Pacific.

Qantas A380 economy seat-map on its lower deck. Source: Seat Guru

Qantas has recently (within the last couple of years) introduced the option to purchase bulkhead and exit aisle seating at an additional fee for economy seats with extra leg room. As the photo below indicates for a flight from Sydney to Los Angeles seat 71D can be reserved for an additional $180 for the 13+ hour journey. If no one has purchased the seating with additional legroom Qantas will often allocate it to its highest level of frequent flyers who have not secured an upgrade on the flight.

Amazing legroom in economy on Qantas’ A380 in seat 71D.

Route(s) operated on:

QF 11 / QF12 Sydney to Los Angeles on Qantas

QF93 / QF94 Melbourne to Los Angeles on Qantas

QF7 / QF8 Sydney to Dallas Fort-Worth on Qantas

Main Cabin Extra on American Airlines Boeing 777-300

American Airlines has recently relaunched its AA74 Sydney to Los Angeles service operated by their Boeing 777-300ER aircraft which currently sport somewhat of a Premium Economy seat available to economy class passengers. The cabin, located directly behind American Airline business class, is home to 30 seats and are configured in a 3 – 3 – 3 layout across the cabin.

The main differences in this seat and a regular economy seat is the legroom between in front of the seat (the seat pitch) is approximate 36 inches, compared to a rather cramped 31inches in the main economy cabin. The only slight difference in the American Airlines Main Cabin Extra seats is that they offer 1 extra inch of width for each seat. To secure a seat in the Main Cabin Extra section of the plane these are reserved for top tier Executive Platinum American AAdvantage  members and Sapphire members of any OneWorld Alliance partners, including Platinum One and Platinum Qantas Frequent Flyers.

Main Cabin Extra legroom on AA 73 from Los Angeles to Sydney

The best seats in this cabin seem to be any of the aisle seats to allow for easy access during the flight, or row 16 which is a traditional bulk head seat which provides even greater legroom, however you do lose some seat width as the entertainment unit and tray-table are built into the arm of the seat.

Upper Deck on the A380

Few economy cabins available across the Pacific offer the same level of service or intimate nature than the small economy cabin which is found at the very back of the upper deck of the A380 aircraft. This small cabin is home to 32 economy seats and is located directly behind the Premium Economy cabin. As it has it’s own dedicated team of flight attendants the service which passengers receive in the cabin is far superior to passengers in the general economy cabin.

As a result of the small cabin and the increased level of service, Qantas will often reserve this cabin for its top tier Gold, Platinum and Platinum One Frequent Flyers. A further advantage of this cabin is that when it comes time to depart the aircraft, you will be on your way to customs and immigration much faster due the significantly smaller number of passengers deplaning from the Business and Premium Economy cabins located on the upper deck, an important factor when connecting to a New York bound flight with American Airlines or another US domestic carrier.

Economy cabin on the Upper Deck of the Qantas A380

Another relatively unknown benefit of the A380 upper deck is that each window seat has access to a small locker located under the window. Which is great for those travelling with a small carry-on or just to store items that you may want access to during the flight – without having to get up, or take up precious space in the seat pocket in front of the seat.

If arriving into Los Angeles, being seated on the A380 Upper Deck also means not having to (depending on your arrival gate) go up a flight of stairs to make your way to the upper level of Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) to make your way through to US Immigration and Customs

Related article: US proposes changes to the US Visa Waiver Program

Arrivals concourse at Tom Bradley International Terminal LAX

Aisle Seat in the middle of the aircraft

The third best seat that, in my opinion, you can reserve to make your flight across the Pacific to the US and New York that little bit more comfortable is an aisle seat in the middle block of 4. When I fly economy short or long-haul I can’t stand to be locked into my seat without having the freedom to get up and move around when I choose. I was once stuck on a flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles and due to arriving at the airport very late (lucky to get on an oversold flight) and booking the cheapest ticket I was put in a window seat towards the back of economy. As we were taking our seats I overheard my two seat-mates (two elderly sisters going to Vegas for the first time) ask each other if the other had taken their sleeping tablet – they both had. Fast forward 11 hours and both of them had slept since we had pushed back from the gate meaning I was unable to get up at all. I vowed never again to sit in a window seat on a long-haul flight.

Virgin Australia Boeing 777 seat map

The further advantage of sitting on the aisle of the middle block of 4 seats is that there is a greater chance of no one sitting next to you, and if they do, you will generally only need to move for one person during the flight (rather than two if sitting on the block of 3 on either side of the plane). Even better as was the case with my most recent flight from Brisbane to New York on QF15 I was sitting on the aisle seat of the middle 4 seats, and I was sitting next to a family of 3, which meant they would make the other members of their family get up when they needed to get out of their seat, rather than pester me.

Two seats at the rear or the plane

If you are travelling in a couple, some of the best seats in the house can be the last row of 5 or 6 seats on the sides of any aircraft flying across the Pacific located at the very back of the economy cabins of all airlines flying between Australia and the West Coast of America. As the fuselage of the aircraft tapers towards the back of the plane all wide-bodied long-haul jetliners will see the outside block of seats shrink from 3 seats abreast down to 2, which makes these seats perfect for couples travelling together.

It allows for more privacy and there is also a little extra space between the window seat and the wall of the aircraft, meaning it is easier to store pillows and blankets without having to put them under your seat or in the overhead locker above.

Qantas Boeing 747-438ER seat map. Source: SeatGuru

The only seats to avoid are the two seats right at the back of the plane as these often have limited recline due to their proximity to the emergency exits.

If you have any questions about how to make your flight from Australia to New York more comfortable, or any questions about which airline to fly, our Ask a Question section is dedicated to helping Australian travellers have an unforgettable New York adventure.

If you have any tips or tricks to make your economy flight more enjoyable I encourage you to use the comments below.


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