After a long absence, Qantas is heading back to South Africa on Tuesday. The airline has resumed thrice-weekly return flights between Sydney and Johannesburg after last flying the route in March 2020.
Tuesday morning departure marks Qantas’ return to South Africa
A Qantas spokesperson has confirmed to Simple Flying reports in South African media concerning flights restarting this week. On Tuesday, January 4, a slightly delayed QF63 has pushed back from Sydney at 10:30 with flights also on Friday and Sunday this week.
From next week, the mid-morning departures will occur every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. It will take 14 hours to cover the 6,682 miles (11,044 kilometers) across to Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport, with QF63 scheduled to land there at 15:15 on the same day.
A Qantas Boeing 747-400 formerly operated these flights. Since suspending its flights to South Africa in March 2020, Qantas retired the last of its 747-400s. Now, Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners will operate the flights.
Returning to Sydney, QF64 will depart Johannesburg at 17:15 every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. The flight will touch down in Sydney at 14:00 the following day.
QF63/64 a bucket list flight for many travelers
Johannesburg Airport is open to international travelers, subject to a negative COVID-19 test and jumping through some other hoops. At the other end of this sector, Sydney Airport accepts returning Australian citizens, permanent residents, approved skilled migrants, international students, humanitarian, working holidaymakers, and family visa holders of other nationalities.
Australia lifted its omicron-related black ban on all travelers from South Africa in mid-December. At the time, Qantas flagged flights resuming to Johannesburg sometime in early January. On Tuesday morning (Sydney time), VH-ZNG was warming its engines to operate the first scheduled flights between Australia and South Africa in nearly two years. Simple Flying is advised that demand for seats on QF63 and QF64 over the first few weeks of flying is strong.
When operating, the Sydney – Johannesburg sector is unusual in several regards. Melbourne readers may know the flight as the only scheduled airline service that passes overhead at a high altitude in a north-south direction. Spot the contrails from a plane heading south around lunchtime, and you’ll always know what the flight is.
From Melbourne, the aircraft normally takes a wide swing down into the sub-Antarctic region, with passengers often spotting icebergs. Few aircraft fly this far south, even fewer do so on a regular basis. That puts QF63/64 on the bucket lists of many travelers.
The flight is also unusual because east-west flights between the Australian and African continents were rare even before the travel downturn. Up in the north Indian Ocean, there’s plenty of aircraft coming in and out of the big Gulf airports, but things were always far quieter down in the southern Indian Ocean zone.
Scarce flights between Australia and Africa
Qantas previously shared the country pair with South African Airways, who flew between Johannesburg and Perth. But South African Airways is unlikely to resume flights to Australia anytime soon. That leaves the Johannesburg – Perth route as future low-hanging fruit for Qantas.
Between them, the Qantas and South African Airways flights to Johannesburg served as a gateway to Africa for Australians. In addition to tourist and VFR traffic, there is typically a decent amount of resource-related business travel between Australia and Africa. But airline routes between the two continents have always been few and far between
Qantas ended its flight to Harare over 20 years ago. A tag flight to Cape Town ended around the same time. Qantas has never flown to eastern African cities like Addis Ababa, Nairobi, and Dar es Saleem. On the flip side, airlines like Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airlines have never made it as far east as Australia.
At the time of publication, QF63 is 45 minutes out of Sydney and tracking southwest.