strong>Pamela Wade flies QF64 from South Africa to Australia.

The plane:

Boeing 747-400, long in the tooth and short on technology.

Class: I took the cruel walk past Business and Premium Economy to the purgatory of Economy.

Price: I paid $2155 for a return fare, including flights to and from Auckland but - feel my pain - they've since advertised cheaper specials.


Flight time: In this direction, just over 11 hours (heading over to Johannesburg it was more than 14 hours, although, since that one's a day flight, you do get sparkling views of Antarctica).

On time? We left after 8pm, an hour late because the plane's arrival was delayed - there was a letter apologising for this at check-in.

My seat: 65A, close to the back. Not much in the way of leg or elbow-room, or padding, but at least it didn't spontaneously recline, like my companion's.

Fellow passengers: The flight was full, mainly it seemed of returning Aussies with a fair proportion of Saffas heading off on an adventure. Babies to Baby Boomers.

Entertainment: Very 20th century. The seat-back screen is small and low-resolution, and if the movie is in wide-screen format then it's even smaller. You'd do as well to watch it on your phone ... except there are no charging points. The controller worked erratically - and then the whole system broke down and had to be rebooted.

Service: Aussies don't do service. So it was no surprise that the welcome drink on the menu never appeared, our row wasn't offered drinks with dinner, our server was distracted, or that she continuously wiped her nose with her fingers while assembling our dinner trays. On the plus side, they did rebook passengers who were going to miss their connections.

Food and drink: Served, finally, at 10pm and by row 65 the dinner choice was down to two. Naturally (see above) I didn't eat the roll, and wished I hadn't tasted the Moroccan chicken, which was super-bland. But at least mine was almost hot, unlike that of the lady on the aisle, whose lukewarm beef curry also had a hair in it.

Toilets: Keep your shoes on.


Luggage: 30kg check-in, 7kg carry-on. It's always a good idea to have it wrapped — my companion's zip lock mysteriously disappeared. Keep your valuables with you.

Airport experience: O.R. Tambo in Johannesburg is large and can be confusing and a bit intimidating, but once through security, feels much like any other. And the African souvenir shops are terrific.

Would I fly this again? Yes, but only because it's the most direct route to and from a fabulous, if somewhat edgy, destination. Maybe Qantas sees it as a theme thing?