Qantas turns 100

“The story of Qantas is the story of modern Australia – past, present and future,” said Alan Joyce, CEO and managing director of Qantas Airways Limited. “It’s a remarkable and unlikely tale of how a humble air mail operation in outback Queensland became a national carrier flying over 50 million passengers a year.” 

On 16 November 1920, Qantas was founded and grew to become one of the world’s most renowned airlines. In celebration of Qantas’s 100th birthday, we’ve looked back over the past century to see just how this outback airline became a global carrier.

In 1920, World War One veterans Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness dreamt of connecting Australia to the rest of the world with an air service. What started as local transportation, joy rides and charter work, based in Longreach in western Queensland, soon began to expand. In 1935, a Qantas DH–86 aircraft took three-and-a-half days to fly between Brisbane and Singapore. By 1938 Empire flying boats connected Sydney and Singapore, now with full cabin service.

Have you ever wondered where the airline’s name came from? It was originally registered as Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Ltd (QANTAS).

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The spacious cabin onboard a Qantas flying boat, 1938. How different they used to look!

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What was the last outfit you wore flying? How did it compare to this 1930’s air travel fashion?

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When war was declared in 1939, Qantas transferred a number of aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force but continued to operate domestic flights and those connecting Australia to Singapore.

In 1941, Qantas crews ferried 19 Catalina flying boats between the United States and Australia. The east to west aerial crossing of the Pacific Ocean had been done just once before at this time.

When Japan occupied much of Southeast Asia in 1942, Qantas ceased flights to and from Singapore. The same year, two Qantas Empire flying boats, used to evacuate servicemen and civilians from the Dutch East Indies, were shot down by Japanese aircraft. Qantas continued to evacuate people from across Southeast Asia and deliver urgent supplies to civilians and troops alike.

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From 1943, Qantas passengers aboard Catalina flying boats were awarded membership to ‘The Rare and Secret Order of the Double Sunrise’ for flying 5600km non-stop between Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Perth.

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Take a trip down memory lane with this light-hearted retelling of Qantas’s ‘Century of Safety’. This clip was shown on all Qantas flights from March this year. 

Have you flown with Qantas before? If you could fly on a Qantas plane of any era, which would it be? 

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Written by Liv Gardiner


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