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Shabadoo and wifelette down under


SOUTH AFRICA | Saturday, 22 March 2008 | Views [540]

Finally, some quality time to update the journal. Perhaps you were thinking that the flight from Johannesburg to Sydney would be straightforward. Ahhahahahaha etc., you puny mortals. Come closer, and I will tell you tales of inferior catering and legroom that will make you scream 'ECONOMY' and fall to your knees sobbing like an orphan whose puppy just died.

Now the Australians like to make a habit of being better than the British - it's part of our endearing rivalry. So naturally, we assumed the Qantas flight would far exceed the rather late BA flight of a fortnight earlier. What we didn't realise was that Qantas were actually trying to make their flight 10 times worse than the British flight, rather than better, so definite points for originality, and further points for succeeding so spectacularly.

Our flight was due out of Johannesburg at 5.50pm, naturally we were there 3 hours early as it tends to get crowded. The queue was already well down the check-in area, for those that have not flown from Johannesburg the departures hall is rather small compared to say Heathrow or a garden shed. Still, it moved relatively quickly, and we were through to departures in about 40 minutes.

The plane started loading 10 minutes before it was due to leave. This did not bode well, especially as they had called up a phalanx of mothers with little children to go on first, establishing small islands of screaming and crying in a sea of plane-based misery. About 45 minutes later we were all onboard. It was pretty hot on the plane, but we were delayed for several reasons:

(a) the luggage handlers needed more time to go through our cases. I would hate to say anything controversial on this site, since I am at peace with the world, so I'll put this as tactfully as possible - South African luggage handlers are the biggest bunch of thieving bastards this planet has ever seen, and if there is ever a nuclear holocaust, I will trek and swim the thousands of miles across Europe and Africa to reach Johannesburg, track down the remains of the airport, find the skulls of the dead luggage handlers and turn them into wine glasses, in order to toast their deaths, cackling maniacally as my brain melts and my hair sizzles.

(b) There was no water onboard. Seems important to be able to drink, I know, but for some reason it hadn't occured to the muppets running this show that we would need water.

(c) When they finally had water, for some reason the pilot had to do some more paperwork (betting slips? birthday cards? suicide note?),so they had to reattach the walkway from the terminal to get it off the plane.

We left Johannesburg 3 hours late, of which we'd spent 2 hours of that sat baking in the plane without water. The stoic little granny next to me had flown earlier from Durban, where the airline had forgotten half the meals, so she'd managed to get a coffee and an apple strudel that day. To add insult to injury, Qantas managed to forget she wanted a diabetic meal, so she was stuck eating the same crap as the rest of us. (oh, and they didn't have her breakfast either, which came with the tasty chocolate muffin, and sugar, since no sweetener was on the plane).
Food? Unidentifiable. Could have been a meat of some sort, never found out.

If you do travel on Qantas though, there is one saving grace - the emergency procedures video. They claim that every jet is 'slightly different' when it comes to escaping, so you have to pay close attention in case you get one of the difficult ones. For instance, the 747 has detachable slides which become life rafts when you hit water; the 737 has a manually-inflated bouncy castle which must be thrown out 10 minutes before impact. The 747 turns into a supersonic submarine on contact with water; the 737 turns into an enormous metal grave filled with screaming people. And so on. The polite lady in the video suggests you check where your life jacket and oxygen mask are (under seat/overhead/taken from the nearest person smaller than me), where the nearest exit is (easy) and how you reach it (over the bodies of the young and infirm, if necessary choking them with my newly stolen oxygen mask).

The flight itself wasn't to bad, just over 11 hours once they'd made up some time in the air, though my headphones were broken and the games controller didn't work, because clearly I had upset some sort of airline-sponsoring deity in another life.

I slept for a while, before I was rudely awakened by my knees, making me aware that everything below them had been deprived of blood for a little too long, since the teenage girl in front, no bigger than a Lego man, had decided to recline back so far that she was actually sleeping in my left nostril, bless her. To be fair, Qantas doesn't have the nasty metal bar which attacks the shins - BA has apparently patented this piece of apparatus. Instead, it has decided to place the rear axle of an Audi A6 across the bottom of each seat, just in case we should happen to pass 450 Audis broken down at 35,000 feet, and they each need parts urgently. Genius. Trying not to push past the diabetic granny who's blocking me in (she came in on a wheelchair too, as if I needed to feel any worse), I did some strange acrobatic gestures whilst facing my own seat, shaking some blood back into my legs, and hoping that each gentle swing of my feet would catapult the teenage muppet forward through the cabin at great velocity, and clean through the front of the plane. Man, I love air travel.


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