Flight Review: Jetstar’s budget transpacific service Honolulu to Sydney (JQ4)

If you’re ever looking for an affordable way to travel between North America and Australia, Jetstar are the only budget carrier that takes Australian passengers directly to the USA.

The airline travels a few times a week between Melbourne, VIC or Sydney, NSW and Honolulu, offering an affordable alternative to its competition, as well as being the only airline that will allow you to book a one way flight across the Pacific that isn’t more expensive than a return flight.

For certain travellers, especially those who may want to incorporate frequent flyer points into one leg of their travel, this can be particularly ideal.

And for me it absolutely was. So last month, for the second consecutive year, I flew to Sydney from Toronto, Canada for less than A$800 one way (total… in December), by combining a flight with Air Canada to Honolulu, where I stayed at the incredible Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach, before continuing on to the Jetstar flight to Sydney.

Also – hot tip – because they’re all day flights, this is the best way to avoid jet lag when flying west bound over the Pacific.

And to add to the incentive, the airline sits comfortably on top of the list of the 20 safest low cost airlines in the world. This according to https://airlineratings.com/, who ranked Jetstar’s parent airline Qantas at number one once again. But – with only three flights a week, it does comes with the risk of a cancellation really messing with your plans (or requiring you to fly to Melbourne instead!).

So, with all that in mind, how did my experience on the budget airline fair? Here’s a run down of the experience.

Airline: Jetstar Airways
Route: Honolulu HNL to Sydney SYD (JQ4)
Aircraft: B787-800 Dreamliner
Seat: 31F – Aisle, middle section in a 3-3-3 layout.
On Time? Yes!
Flight Time: 10 hours 20 minutes

Checking in at Honolulu International Airport

The 8.15am departure ensured it was still dark when I arrived at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, and with no online check-in available before the flight, the Jetstar flight to Sydney was one of the only counters seeing substantial passenger backlog, two and a bit hours before take off.

Luckily it moved fairly quickly, and I got through it in about half an hour. Staff were helpful and, in spite of the hour, served passengers with jovial spirits. Then security (made up mostly of the Australian travellers) took another 25 minutes.

Make sure you’ve pre-paid for your baggage when you purchase your ticket to ensure you get the best possible rate. It was an extra $39 USD cost to check one 20kg bag, at the time of booking. But I believe they charge more at check in for the same privilege.

After security, there wasn’t much open before 7am, with just duty free, Starbucks, Burger King and the California Pizza Kitchen open. Things started progressively opening as we got closer to boarding, and if you didn’t pre-purchase a meal (which is only possible more than 24 hours before your flight), I would recommend getting yourself something to eat on board. I had a Caesar salad from CPK and it was a godsend on that long flight.

There’s also LOTS of outdoor areas at this airport so enjoy some fresh air before you take off!


I have to say, Jetstar do a really great job on the boarding front. They board by rows, from the back to the front (bar business class), the almost perfect system to expedite the process. I’ll never understand why more airlines don’t do this, but then again given how many people line up in spite of their line not being called, you can understand why some won’t bother.

But, very much to their credit, they wouldn’t let them board, and kept making announcements to ensure only the right people were in the queue. The only difficulty was the crowded gate made it very difficult to form lines, even when your row was called. But it all worked and there was no backup on the jetbridge! Magic! Other airlines please take note.

In-Flight Entertainment

There’s a touch screen on the back of every seat. The airline now charge $15 for you to use the in flight entertainment, which you can order through the screen and a credit card swipe. This is a $2 uptick from the same time last year (and some of their material still says it’s $13 so I had to ask for clarification). You can also listen to a single album or movie for a lower cost, should you only be interested in enjoying one piece of content.

The USB power though comes free and will be a lifesaver for those who come pre-prepared with mobile content. There is some limited free Jetstar produced content as well as the ability to view details about the flight and the obligatory live flight map. Earphones were distributed complimentary and there was no wi-fi on board.

Seats & Comfort

Seats have 5″ max recline and moveable headrest with flaps, with 30″ of leg room. Incredibly, this was more recline than United’s Dreamliner offers over the Pacific (only 3″ unless you’re in an “Economy Plus” seat); though United offer an extra inch of seat pitch. So, while many airlines offer more, the comfort levels were surprisingly competitive in an industry which by and large has been actively reducing Economy comfort levels over the years.

Overall, while they cram a hell of a lot of people in there, the Dreamliner is an incredibly comfortable jet, built to help provide better internal cabin pressure. The touch screen windows do well to keep lights dim even on a day flight. The plane itself, as well as the bathrooms were clean and comfortable, and a shout out to the unique swivel door on the bathrooms of the Dreamliner which are something of an aesthetic delight.

Turbulence was minimal, and we were given plenty of updates on what ended up being an on time service from the cockpit.

Service inc. Food & Drink

Not long after take off, they offered some complimentary water (and they will give you hot water if you ask for it, so BYO tea bag!), and then the first meal and drink service came through not long after that. If you pre-purchased a meal (which you can do 24+ hours ahead of the flight), they’ll likely bring that to you ahead of the main service. You can choose to have it with the first meal service, or in a second service later in the flight. Other than the water, nothing is complimentary.

They regularly walked down the aisle with water and it seemed like if you wanted something outside of those times, they would let you purchase something.

Arriving in Sydney

Customs forms for Australia, which remain physical (a missed opportunity over the pandemic was changing this, as has happened in the US and Canada), were handed out shortly after take off.

On landing, there was an acknowledgement of country – it’s great to see that on all Australian airlines now. But beyond that, the arrival process for an Australian passport holder couldn’t be easier; it’s exactly was it was pre-pandemic now.

Final Verdict

If you read my JQ2 review last year, you’ll probably notice that I’ve reused a lot of that content. The truth is, not much has changed in terms of their service nor their experience. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Of course, as they only offer three flights a week between Honolulu and Sydney, should the flight be cancelled, I would have likely been stuck there for days.

Such is the risk of budget airlines internationally – but at the price point they offered, it proved well worth the risk. And thankfully, as was the case the year prior, it essentially went off without a hitch.

Beyond this, there’s little to write about when it comes to a Jetstar flight. You don’t get anything inclusive, and the 10+ hour flight time ensures it’s a long experience without those inclusions. But they are there if you want to pay for them, it’s a day flight so you don’t have to sleep, and you can bring on your own food and entertainment.

Across the board, staff were great, the flight as comfortable as it could be, and they ensure you’re hydrated at the very least (which hasn’t always been my experience flying on budget airlines – I’m looking at you Scoot!). And most importantly – there aren’t any surprises that they don’t actively promote when you’re booking your flight.

So unlike airlines who change their policies regularly, you very much know what you’re getting when you fly on this route. You can’t complain about something you know you’re not going to get.

To get across the Pacific this affordably can be a godsend when you need it, and though the limited number of flights means there is inherent risk in a cancellation (a risk with any airline, but the more flights they have the easier it is to be rescheduled), I would argue it’s well worth the risk. And I would absolutely fly them on this route again (as I did!). And seriously – fly back via Hawaii if you can, Jetstar or not. I avoided jetlag completely by getting some time on the beaches of Honolulu on the way home.



Jetstar flies between Sydney and Honolulu on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturday. For tickets and more details head to jetstar.com.

Photos by the author, except headline photo, provided by Jetstar.
The author flew at his own expense.
This article is an updated version of my JQ2 review 12 months ago, which you can read HERE

Whilst in Honolulu, the author stayed as a guest of the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.