Airline review: Qantas 747 economy class, Sydney to Johannesburg

THE PLANE

Qantas 747-400

THE ROUTE

Sydney to Johannesburg

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Qantas Frequent Flyer (Oneworld alliance)

THE SEAT

Economy, seat 60H

DURATION

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Thirteen hours, 10 minutes

FREQUENCY

Six flights a week.

THE SEAT

The cabin layout is 3-4-3. My seat has 31 inches (79 centimetres) of pitch and is 17.5 inches (44 centimetres) wide.

BAGGAGE

One piece of checked luggage up to 30 kilograms and one item of carry-on luggage up to 7 kilograms.

THE COMFORT

Although the Qantas 747 is now getting on in years, the interiors have been updated and are quite comfortable. I'm sitting at a bulkhead behind the galley and while this means there's no seat in front of me to stretch my legs under, the extra room for my knees, which normally press against the next seat, is an agreeable trade-off. These seats also feature fixed armrests and fold-away entertainment screens (so you can't watch during take-off and landing). A pillow and blanket is provided.

ENTERTAINMENT

The touchscreens are sharp though perhaps not as responsive as they could be – I feel the telltale tapping at the back of my head while trying to get some rest. The selection is excellent with a great range of movies and television shows, including programming from HBO such as Game of Thrones and Veep.

SERVICE

The crew is friendly, efficient, helpful and happy to have a chat. Despite the length of the long-haul, there's never a point where it's difficult to find someone to assist with a drink or snack request.

THE FOOD

Qantas has worked hard to improve its inflight meals and it shows. My spiced, crusted kingfish with eggplant and capsicum relish, served with green beans and rice is among the best meals I've ever had in economy class. It comes with garlic bread and an apple crumble. The second meal is just as good – I choose chipotle pulled pork, bean and apple salad. To top it off there are Tim Tams and muesli bars available for self service at any time at the rear of the aircraft or you can order a packet of M&Ms or cheese and crackers at any time. We're also given a bottle of water to stay hydrated.

ONE MORE THING

The best seats on these old 747s are right down the back on the window, where the cabin tapers to 2-4-2 instead of 3-4-3. There is a gap between the seat and the fuselage, allowing you to stretch out a bit. Qantas charges $30 to select your seat, but it's $180 if you want the exit row.

THE VERDICT

Departing Sydney before midday, the sun never sets on this flight. Despite flying an older aircraft on this route, Qantas still deliver a high standard of service and quality food throughout.

The writer flew at his own expense.

See also: Airline review: Qantas 747 business class

See also: Dress well for an upgrade? 10 of the biggest myths about air travel, busted

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