Which plane should you fly on?

Should scientists ever do a deep-dive into studying human DNA on an individual basis, they may well discover that many business travellers carry the planespotting gene.

In some of us it lies dormant – we're more concerned with the destination than the journey. In others, this undeniably geeky gene is so hypertuned that it redlines in the Asperger zone.

But over time and with the benefit of countless trips, all frequent flyers become what I'd call "aircraft aware" to the point where they appreciate travelling in one type of jet over another.

This sense of plane-savvy serves them well because despite paying the same airfare and flying the same route, you can end up with a better (or worse) experience based on the aircraft you're in.

Jumbo vs superjumbo

For example, Qantas's daily service between Sydney and Hong Kong uses the airline's flagship Airbus A380 from Thursday through to Sunday, but the older Boeing 747 on the remaining days (this changes from November 4, when the A380 will add Monday to its SYD-HKG roster.)

The A380 superjumbo sports Qantas's latest Skybed II business class seats, which recline into a fully flat bed.

The 747s flying this route, however, retain the rest the first generation of sleepers that recline to a slight angle rather than fully horizontal.

The Boeing 747s have an original and very dated first class cabin and seating when compared to the Red Roo's superb A380 first class.

This is particularly noteworthy in light of Qantas's current offer of a free first class upgrade on a return business class ticket between Sydney and Hong Kong.

If you want to make the most of this deal, you should be timing your Hong Kong trips for those A380 days.

Beyond that, the superjumbo offers a much smoother, quieter ride – I always feel noticeably fresher stepping off an A380 compared to a Boeing 747.

And while Qantas has upgraded half of its Boeing 747 fleet to the lie-flat Skybed II design, this still leaves room for a bit of a 'jumbo jumble' if aircraft types are swapped around.

The biggest gulf is across the pond

Where it really pays to be plane-savvy is for trips between Australia and New Zealand.

Business travellers shuttling back and forth between Sydney/Melbourne and Auckland usually don't see anything better than a domestic-style seat with a little extra width, recline and legroom.

But if you choose the right flight, running on the right aircraft, you can enjoy real business class.

Following last week's extension of the Qantas/Emirates alliance to New Zealand, Qantas travellers can now book themselves onto the Emirates Airbus A380s that fly daily on the Sydney-Auckland and Melbourne-Auckland routes (with a third superjumbo running Brisbane-Auckland from October 2).

It costs exactly the same amount of money or Qantas Frequent Flyer points to book a business class ride on the Emirates A380, but you can enjoy the same top-notch business class seats and creature comforts as you'd experience on a trip to London.

This includes spacious seats which convert to a fully-flat bed in case you need some shut-eye, a large tray table for your laptop, an at-seat AC power socket, a personal minibar next to each seat and a bar and lounge for a bit of sky-high socialising.

Note that if you book this flight directly with Emirates you won't earn as many Qantas Frequent Flyer points and you won't pick up any Qantas status credits.

Book the flight under its equivalent Qantas codeshare flight numbers and you'll rake in almost twice as many points, plus full status credits.

If you're flying with Air New Zealand, the trick is to look for an NZ flight number in the 100s. These typically use a Boeing 777, 747 or 767, where you'll find better seats and more legroom than the Kiwi airline's workhorse Airbus A320 planes (which come under NZ flight numbers in the 700 range).

Sometimes, especially on weekends, Air New Zealand swaps the aircraft around so you can still end up on an A320, but that's the risk you run.

Air New Zealand's Boeing 777s are the cream of the crop: herringbone-style business seating offers both privacy and direct aisle access in a 1-2-1 layout on the newest 777-300 jets, along with a large table and at-seat laptop power.

The 747 and 777-200 are the next best, with an older version of the same seat.

Up next: Boeing's 787

The issue of caring a jot or not about the type of plane you fly on will come into sharp relief this year as at least three airlines operating in our airspace introduce Boeing's next generation 787 Dreamliner onto local schedules.

Air India will be first, with its on-again off-again promise of returning to the Australian market now tied to the launch of a daily Boeing 787 service between Delhi and both Sydney and Melbourne starting from August 29.

Jetstar is next on the list, with three of 14 Dreamliners due by the end of the year. Qantas's low-cost offshoot expects to roll these out these on selected domestic routes by November, before moving on to the start of full international services in December.

December will also see a Dreamliner debut from Qantas partner Japan Airlines, with a Boeing 787 service between Sydney and Tokyo from December 1.

Still literally up in the air are the Aussie-bound Boeing 787 plans of Qatar, which announced a Perth-Doha-London 787 service before the troubled jet's global grounding in earlier this year, and China Southern.

The Boeing 787 promises plenty of benefits for the long-distance traveller. It's quieter, lighter and brighter on the inside, thanks to a redesigned cabin and oversized windows.

A lower effective cabin altitude and higher humidity level reduces the impact of jetlag and that general feeling of fatigue, making the flight more pleasant and even helping avoid those post-trip bouts of jetlag.

But the Dreamliner's well-documented string of woes over the past year may dampen travellers' usual enthusiasm to jump onto the latest and greatest aircraft.

How much do you care about the type of plane you fly? And will you look to book the Boeing 787 once it begins flying in Australia?

David Flynn is a business travel expert and editor of Australian Business Traveller.

Twitter: @AusBT