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Flight review: Sydney to Johannesburg Qantas Economy

MARK HARADA hops across to Johannesburg from Sydney on a flight Qantas makes as enjoyable as a long-haul journey in economy can be.



Flight No: QF63  

Departure: 10:55am

Aircraft: 747-400

Cabin: Economy 

Seat: 62D (aisle)



It’s been a while since I flew abroad through Sydney (at least six months) and in that time things have changed. One such update is in the QF departures hall, where new self check-in kiosks and bag drops await passengers. The process is a tad quicker than conventional check-in, and I’m able to access a kiosk and bag drop machine straight away too. So, top marks all around. Online check-in is unavailable but you can manage your booking options like seat choices and meal types before departure.



Most economy flyers won’t have access to the QF lounges but if you do you’ll find some nice food and beverage in comfy surroundings with top views. Grab a barista made coffee, some fresh fruit or a warm breakfast (and/or sneaky glass of champers) and your trip’s already off to a great start. The Qantas lounge is also nice and close to our departure gate. 



A 14-hour flight in economy is rarely going to be super comfortable. But my journey is just about as comfy as it could be. Well padded, and with adjustable headrests (that co-operate), my seat boasts just enough legroom (pitch of 31 inches) and width (17.5 inches) for my broad 6-ft frame. Having a vacant spot next to me doesn’t hurt either. For an old plane, its seats look like they’ve been fairly recently refurbished – or are at least in very good nick too. 


That's entertainment



The first thing I notice is there’s no handset. Depending on how you view corded devices that sometimes get in the way but can be handy when reclined, that can be a good or bad thing. The screen itself is of average size, has reasonable definition, a touch function that’s pretty responsive and offers a great tilt.

Among the Q Entertainment features are an extensive A to Z of films, including newbies like Ladybird and The Shape of Water, and television, from comedy and docos to sports and my personal fave, HBO (hello Curb Your Enthusiasm season 9).

There’s also a lot of music of most genres (from county to jazz, opera to Australiana) and several radio stations. I usually judge a music system by its selection of alternative artists and there are plenty here, including lots of Oz heroes like Augie March, Tame Impala and Amy Shark. 

The headphones are ok, although the input is a little sensitive to movement, and I lament forgetting my noise-cancelling device.

On top of the entertainment, Q features cool interactive flight maps (for the Av geeks), destination guides (for the holidaymakers), plenty of news and business news offerings and heaps of children-friendly content in a dedicated kids section – and though I didn’t browse that, I did notice Peppa Pig playing on a couple of screens that my daughter would’ve loved. There’s also a webmail and webchat option (charged at a flat rate but with a free preview), and complimentary wired inflight chat modes.


Curry lunch


Food & beverage:

I rate Qantas catering highly. And this flight underlines that. My Oriental Vegetarian lunch comprises an excellent mild green curry with Hokkien noodles and appetising, albeit slightly overcooked, pumpkin and other vegies. On the side is what tastes like gluten free bread, some delish dried fruit, and an amazing chocolate brownie/cake from Madhouse Bakehouse. On the drinks front, the service offers plenty of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, with an emphasis on Aussie wines and beer.  

Later in the flight, I’m served a snack box and about three hours out of Joburg a dinner that consists of a nice Pad See Ew style rice noodle dish, more dried and fresh fruit and a yummy Rowie’s chocolate and cacao vegan mousse. By the end of the flight, I am full.



It’s hard to beat Qantas’ Aussie-inspired service - at least on this flight. Cabin crew are relaxed yet professional and obliging when called upon. They also seem to be a happy mob. My special meals are served quickly, I’m offered drinks right away, and they’re relatively quick to clean up. They also seem busier than the average crew with the almost endless food and beverage service.


Touchdown in Jo-burg!


On-time performance:

We take off some 30 minutes behind schedule, but arrive ten minutes early, at 4:50pm, which is no surprise really, given QF’s recent and excellent punctuality record.



There are a few, like the service, but it's got to be the food. Aside from the served meals, I love the snack areas. The rear-illuminated shelves have Tim Tams and Carmen’s muesli bars while the main bar has fresh (and cold) apples, super chilled Weis bars, Byron Bay cookies, soy rice crackers and of course a selection of drinks.


Written by: Mark Harada
Published: 1 May 2018

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