Review: Qantas Boeing 787 Business Class (Sydney-Johannesburg)

Jet off for an African adventure on the Dreamliner to Jo'burg, with an Antarctic bonus.

Overall Rating

By Chris Ashton, August 26 2022
Qantas Boeing 787 Business Class (Sydney-Johannesburg)
Route

Sydney - Johannesburg

Aircraft Type

Boeing 787-9

Airline

Qantas

Flight

QF63

Cabin Class

Business Class

Seat

2E

Notes
The Good
  • Intuitive service
  • Sleep experience with pyjamas and mattress topper
The Bad
  • Inflight dining a bit below par
  • Sydney International Business Lounge somewhat lacking
X-Factor
  • Icy views of the Antarctic coastline en route
  • Bonus legroom in seats 2E/F
Service
Meals
Seating
Overall

Introduction

Africa. Just one word is all it takes to send your mind into overdrive thinking of lions, elephants and rhinos roaming the bush and grasslands along with bustling cities filled with energy and culture.

Qantas flies between Sydney and Johannesburg – gateway to the diverse wonders of Africa – five times a week aboard its Boeing 787 Dreamliner, equipped with its signature business class suite. Direct services from Perth to the South African mecca will soon be an option, with thrice-weekly flights taking off from November 1

Qantas' Dreamliner welcomes 42 passengers in its premium business class suites.
Qantas' Dreamliner welcomes 42 passengers in its premium business class suites.

What’s Qantas’ 787 business class like? We took a flight from Sydney to find out, before venturing further afield on a safari with new Qantas Frequent Flyer partner TripADeal.

Check-in

Qantas’ dedicated first and business class check-in desk is conveniently located at Row B in Sydney’s International Terminal 1, with passengers in these classes also enjoying access to a priority immigration and security lane.

Arriving three hours prior to the flight, there was no queue during our early morning visit, allowing for a prompt bag drop, boarding pass collection and on our way in under a minute.

Security took no more than 10 minutes before we were headed to the Qantas international business class lounge.

Lounge

Travellers in business class gain entry to the Qantas Sydney International Business Lounge, found just up the escalator above Heinemann Tax and Duty Free.

Just 3 minutes stroll from security, the Qantas Sydney International Business Lounge has seen better days.
Just 3 minutes stroll from security, the Qantas Sydney International Business Lounge has seen better days.

Those who’ve visited recently will know it’s an adequate, yet not overly exciting space. As the flagship airline’s Australian international lounge, it’s just not up to par – eclipsed by its domestic counterpart

It has all the basics, such as buffet dining and barista coffee, free WiFi and a variety of lounge and work-focused seating options, but no real standout features. 

Choose from a selection of Australian wines at the central self-service bar.
Choose from a selection of Australian wines at the central self-service bar.

Beyond the self-service central bar, the left and right wings feel a bit forgotten and could really do with some love, particularly around the buffets. It deserves better.

This forgotten wing at the end of the lounge could do with a modern makeover.
This forgotten wing at the end of the lounge could do with a modern makeover.

Qantas recognises this fact, although its long-teased refurbishment has yet to come to fruition. 

Work desks, lounges and dining tables complete the assortment of seating options.
Work desks, lounges and dining tables complete the assortment of seating options.

The food selection for our early morning visit was limited, especially when compared to Sydney International Airport equivalents for Air New Zealand and Gulf partner Emirates.

A mix of hot and cold dishes were laid out for guests, consisting of bacon, scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausages and beans for hot; Bircher muesli, fruit salad, chia pudding and yoghurt for cold. Breads and pastries were at hand too. 

Breakfast with a view.
Breakfast with a view.

In addition to an automatic coffee machine were an array of teas, soft drinks, and pineapple juice, plus assorted beers, wines and spirits.

Wise guests made a beeline to the barista station, which worked through orders at breakneck pace. 

The cold menu featured the most appetising options at the breakfast buffet.
The cold menu featured the most appetising options at the breakfast buffet.

Oddly, only one of the two buffet areas within the lounge was open, funnelling guests from the whole lounge into one crowded section.

To their credit, staff did a commendable job keeping it stocked with the various choices.

Flight

The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner is Qantas’ secondary international workhorse, jetting off on many routes not serviced by the larger (and indeed thirstier) A380, such as Perth-London.

Split across two zones with eight rows in the forward cabin and three behind the first galley, 42 business class passengers enjoy a spacious 1-2-1 configuration equipped with the now-trademark business suite.

The David Caon-designed seat includes ample storage options to keep gadgets and amenities at hand.
The David Caon-designed seat includes ample storage options to keep gadgets and amenities at hand.

Baggage allowance in business class is 40kg checked, plus 14kg carry-on across up to two bags. Qantas Club or Frequent Flyer members of Silver standing or higher, along with Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members receive an additional allowance.

An unexpected highlight of the 14 hour flight was how close we ventured to the coast of Antarctica, after tracking past Hobart and over the Southern Ocean. 

Flying over the Great White Continent was an unexpected thrill.
Flying over the Great White Continent was an unexpected thrill.

Leaning across to enjoy the view from a fellow passenger's window seat, we eagerly waited for the thick clouds to part and present our first teasing glimpse of the great white expanse.

It didn’t take long for the full, wild isolation – undulating mountains and valleys, vast channels of snow and icebergs – to reveal itself. A true bucket list moment.

Thick cloud eventually parted to reveal the icy landscape below.
Thick cloud eventually parted to reveal the icy landscape below.

Crew advised the route doesn’t always pass so close to the continental landmass, making it an occasional treat when it does. They even offered a glass of champagne to celebrate the moment.

If you’re booking a flight to Jo’burg, consider a window seat in Row A on the left hand side of the aircraft. You may be in luck and have the weather gods on your side for a prized Antarctic vista.

Seat

Business class on this flight is the now-familiar David Caon-designed lie-flat bed. Its sleek blue cloth seat and black leather headrest embossed with the Qantas logo, and simple touch-button recline and massage functions, made for a comfortable base for the long journey to Africa.

Business class is divided into two zones with eight rows in the forward cabin and three behind the first galley.
Business class is divided into two zones with eight rows in the forward cabin and three behind the first galley.

Between the middle seats was a divider that can slide up and down for privacy or seatmate sociability.

As this was a daytime jaunt, we didn’t get much shuteye – aside from a brief power nap – but the light grey mattress topper, white pillow, and blue and cream-coloured blanket certainly added to our comfort level. Pyjamas were a welcome inclusion.

A 110V international power point and USB are on hand to keep your devices fully charged.
A 110V international power point and USB are on hand to keep your devices fully charged.

A 1960s-inspired toiletries bag was waiting at the seat on boarding. Its striped, pale blue design part of Qantas’ 100 year celebrations looking back through the decades.

Inside was a trio of Li Tya care products: lip balm, face cream and hand cream, plus a dental kit, socks, ear plugs and eye mask. The skincare bottles were made of 40% recycled plastic, while the other items were packaged in paper.

A vintage-inspired amenities kit embossed with the airline's centenary logo.
A vintage-inspired amenities kit embossed with the airline's centenary logo.

It was nice to see Qantas’ efforts to eliminate single-use plastics; amenities kits are often notorious for wastage. That said, the blanket and seat topper were still plastic wrapped, though it’s most likely hygiene-related and ergo unavoidable.

When you’re ready to count some sheep, the seat transforms into a fully-flat two-metre bed. The crew can prepare the bed with a padded mattress for extra comfort and a blanket and pillow, though it’s easy enough to do yourself.

The 203cm flat bed is long enough for most passengers to stretch out in comfort.
The 203cm flat bed is long enough for most passengers to stretch out in comfort.

Lighting can be easily adjusted to suit your mood and need, with a brushed metal directional reading lamp, overhead light and a subtle ambient lighting in the footwell and beneath the magazine rack to your left.

Seats 2E and 2F differ quite substantially from others in the cabin.

A pull-out tray beneath the monitor, a much wider footwell and a convenient storage nook alongside – large enough for a backpack or wheeled carry-on – are all exclusive perks of these two seats.

Those lucky enough to be seated in 2E or 2F can look forward to increased legroom.
Those lucky enough to be seated in 2E or 2F can look forward to increased legroom.

When it came to work, the Qantas Business Suite made for a great office in the clouds.

The shelf next to the seat was wide enough to spread out, while the tray table easily slid away out of sight or pushed back and forward to a comfortable position.

Subtle cabin lighting gently wakes passengers prior to landing.
Subtle cabin lighting gently wakes passengers prior to landing.

We had no issues setting up the laptop to work while in the air, with the tray table doubling as a sturdy workbench. AC and USB outlets helped keep our gadgets juiced up for the duration.

Wi-Fi access is sadly missing in action on Qantas international flights, and it’s still a couple of years away

Meal

Two meal services were offered during the flight: a three-course lunch service around 90 minutes after takeoff, and a light dinner some two-or-so hours prior to landing.

A detailed drinks and dining menu provided before takeoff listed the available options.

Australian beers and wines were the stars of the drinks menu.
Australian beers and wines were the stars of the drinks menu.

Lunch:

I kicked things off with a signature Qantas Sky Spritz – an aperitif of white wine spritz with finger lime and Davidson plum. When placing our order, the crew member noted it was “very sweet”.

The Qantas Signature Sky Spritz in its watermelon-hued glory.
The Qantas Signature Sky Spritz in its watermelon-hued glory.

It’s probably not something I’d go back to again, a bit too sweet for my taste. But as a one-off palate cleanser it was fine.

To begin the meal, passengers were offered a choice of zucchini and basil soup, Asian chicken salad with black sesame dressing, or Thai style fish cakes with pickled cucumber and chilli dressing. I opted for the latter. 

Thai fish cakes with a Neil Perry green leaf salad on the side.
Thai fish cakes with a Neil Perry green leaf salad on the side.

The fish cakes had a nice flavour, but were a little dry. The pickled cucumber and chilli dressing did the best they could to add some much-needed moisture, but it was a losing battle.

Four options made up the main menu - a caramelised potato gratin with peas, mushroom and fennel, slow cooked chipotle lamb sandwich, Jiangxi style Humpty Doo barramundi with seasonal greens and rice, or beef fillet with Paris mash, asparagus and salsa verde.

Again, we went with the latter…and this time, delicious. Silky smooth mash with a well done beef fillet that was still tender.

Beef fillet with Paris mash, asparagus and salsa verde - my dish of the flight.
Beef fillet with Paris mash, asparagus and salsa verde - my dish of the flight.

The salsa verde and asparagus added a welcome right hook of flavour.

A ‘green leaf salad’ (literally some leaves with a light vinaigrette on top) was paired with the entree. While the green leaf part of the name was true, I wouldn't call it a salad per se.

Sweet-toothed flyers would have appreciated the dessert menu: a vanilla crème caramel, Maggie Beer ice cream, seasonal fruit and chocolate, plus a selection of cheeses.

The crème caramel was the one to catch my eye, but it was a bit underwhelming in flavour.
The crème caramel was the one to catch my eye, but it was a bit underwhelming in flavour.

The meal was paired with an Australian-heavy wine list. 

Dinner:

Just over two hours prior to landing in Johannesburg, a light dinner was served. This time, the starting choices were a beef and red wine pie, chicken tikka masala topped with a papadum, stir fried pork with shiitake mushrooms and jasmine rice, or a chilli and garlic prawn spaghettini.

I opted for the chicken tikka, which delivered just the right level of spice. 

The lighter meal option was a perfect choice prior to our mid afternoon arrival.
The lighter meal option was a perfect choice prior to our mid afternoon arrival.

It was again served with a green salad, though this time missing any vinaigrette.

Fruit, nuts, pretzels and chocolate bars were also available self-serve by the galley.
Fruit, nuts, pretzels and chocolate bars were also available self-serve by the galley.

Other snack options were available throughout the flight. These ranged from fresh fruit to a croque monsieur...

...and spinach, feta and caramelised onion quiche with small lettuce salad on the side.

Entertainment & Service

Service was friendly and intuitive, with crew knowing when passengers wanted to be left alone or offered a cup of tea and biscuits mid-flight. It was those small touches and moments of warmth that made the biggest impact.

Cabin Manager Gill was a gem, ensuring our water and wine glasses were always filled.

Inflight entertainment – accessed via a responsive 16-inch touchscreen – featured a vast collection of recent and classic release movies, box set television and documentaries, audiobooks along with guided meditation and wellness videos to help you relax.

Movies, box sets, audio books and meditation are just handful of the inflight entertainment options.
Movies, box sets, audio books and meditation are just handful of the inflight entertainment options.

Qantas’ newly-minted partnership with Paramount + took to the skies earlier this month, bringing with it an extensive collection of exclusive series, movies and original content.

The entertainment system itself was very simple to use, either tapping and swiping on the monitor or using the remote, which was neatly tucked away under a lift-up panel on the armrest (this space was also home to a handy bar mirror).

Lights were dimmed after lunch, providing passengers wanting some shut-eye a chance to doze, with light slowly filling the cabin again shortly before the second meal.

Verdict

Jetting off from Sydney at 9:35am resulted in an arrival of 3:40pm into Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International, meaning travellers could get their bearings and hit the ground running without stumbling into a foreign city in the middle of the night.

Looking back, it was a great flight. While not quite hitting the same heights as some of its rivals, I still enjoyed quality service from start to finish, with a well-timed schedule and ample entertainment.

The bonus legroom and storage available in our seat made for an even more comfortable experience, one I’d happily repeat. 

While the Sydney International Business Lounge was lacking, the rest of the trip was a marked improvement. 

Hot tip: Business class guests can utilise the Priority Fast Track lane immediately to the left of immigration at O.R Tambo. There was just one other person in line, allowing me to bypass what looked to be a minimum 30-minute wait in the main queue.

The writer travelled as a guest of TripADeal.

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Aug 2018

Total posts 104

Strange to have to fly from Melbourne to pick up a B 747 in Sydney to then overfly Melbourne on a previous flight to Jo Burg. In terms of the article: " what's not to like, Australia to Africa in comfort?

SYD
SYD

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 12

The B747 have been retired for quite a while. But you can now fly MEL-PER and then onto JNB if that suits.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 341

Mweehh  thats QF Business - dated already..... have done this domestically a few times and  pre COVID to Hong Kong - JUST MAKE SURE you do not use that "holder" aka grab handle above your tiny screen as an IPAD holder, because it will break your  IPAD cover case

CX

16 May 2015

Total posts 17

Some of the most memorable parts of flights are just from looking out of the window. Obviously Chris got a kick out of seeing Antarctica. Makes you wonder why so many airlines try and get you to close the shades during a day flight....

31 May 2013

Total posts 23

I really hope they ditch the tray service in business class again soon, and bring back the laid table cloth and service from the galley - proper service, small touches add up! 

That SYD lounge needs a real refresh - wouldn't cost them a fortune to get some furniture in whilst they await a proper reno!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Aug 2022

Total posts 13

I truly do wish that the really classy dining comes back. Those small touches really elevate the overall experience. It makes it significantly closer to First class level.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Jun 2022

Total posts 2

I was looking forward to this flight from JNB to SYD in May but the plane had rudder issues so it could not fly, got sent off to Doha 2 days later. Thank goodness for J class. Qatar suits are amazing, I could have stayed up there for a week.

BA Gold

01 Apr 2012

Total posts 178

Personally, I find it absolutely absurd that QF does not have wifi enabled long haul aircraft.  It is practically an industry standard now.  Even my recent flight on Sri Lankan Airlines had wifi.

As a small business owner I was thrilled when QF announced PER (home) to LHR (work) non stop.  But, 18hrs without being contactable is just a no go for me.

The catering is so so SO poor as well.  Their menu is a case of using cheap ingredients in contemporary meals.  I used points to fly SIN - LHR in J last week and the meal was without exaggeration overshadowed in both quality and quantity by my Thai Airways SYD - BKK meal a few weeks prior.  Being a 'supper service' the entire meal consists of a slice of bread, a 'side salad' (read half a dozen leaves) and the main course.  I ordered the beef stir fry and it really should have been listed on the menu as a cabbage stir fry.  Huge amount of rice and cabbage, three tiny slivers of cow.  Cheap, cheap, cheap.  Of course it's easy to blame the catering company.  However, I assume the catering company provides what's within the budget QF allocated to them.

The saving grace are the cabin crew who I always find great.

26 Apr 2018

Total posts 12

Had a completely different experience to the author of this article on July 26th with regard to his "X factor experience". Flew on QF63 in J just a month ago and, for a flight that is entirely during daylight, we were disappointed that the window tinting was engaged soon after breakfast and kept the cabin in darkness until near the end of the flight. Without individual window shades to raise or lower ourselves we had no control over the views the Antarctic coastline. When we caught a muted view of the ice below we asked for the tinting to be turned off so we could take some pics, but by the time the windows lightened the views were long gone.

Surely it's a no-brainer that pax would want to see these views but maybe QF prefers to  keep them in artificial darkness so they sleep instead of eating or drinking more.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer P1

23 Aug 2014

Total posts 102

The potato/fennel plant based dish and the beef fillet on this J menu were both mains on QF 11 in First from Sydney to LAX on 26/8/22

Very very poor product differentiation between the food in F and J now with many components on my flight inedible - a real shame 


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