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Australian History

On this day (Australia): In 1922, QANTAS bagan its first scheduled flights, between Charleville and Cloncurry


Replica of QANTAS first plane, the Avro 504K

On 2 November 1922, QANTAS bagan its first scheduled flights, between Charleville, Queensland and Cloncurry, Queensland.

Qantas Airways Limited is the flag carrier of Australia and its largest airline by fleet size, international flights and international destinations. It is the world’s third-oldest airline still in operation, having been founded in November 1920; it began international passenger flights in May 1935. 

Qantas is an acronym of the airline’s original name, Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services, as it originally served Queensland and the Northern Territory, and is popularly nicknamed “The Flying Kangaroo”. Qantas is a founding member of the Oneworld airline alliance.

The airline is based in the Sydney suburb of Mascot, adjacent to its main hub at Sydney Airport. As of March 2014, Qantas had a 65-per-cent share of the Australian domestic market and carried 14.9 per cent of all passengers travelling in and out of Australia. 

Various subsidiary airlines operate to regional centres and on some trunk routes within Australia under the QantasLink banner. Qantas also owns Jetstar, a low-cost airline that operates both international services from Australia and domestic services within Australia and New Zealand; and holds stakes in a number of other Jetstar-branded airlines.

Qantas was founded in Winton, Queensland on 16 November 1920 by Hudson Fysh, Paul McGinness and Fergus McMaster as Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited. The airline’s first aircraft was an Avro 504K. It moved its headquarters to Longreach, Queensland in 1921 and Brisbane, Queensland in 1930.

QEA era

In 1934, QANTAS and Britain’s Imperial Airways (a forerunner of British Airways) formed a new company, Qantas Empire Airways Limited (QEA). The new airline commenced operations in December 1934, flying between Brisbane and Darwin.

QEA flew internationally from May 1935, when the service from Darwin was extended to Singapore (Imperial Airways operated the rest of the service through to London). When World War II began, enemy action and accidents destroyed half of the fleet of ten, and most of the fleet was taken over by the Australian government for war service.

Flying boat services were resumed in 1943, with flights between the Swan River at Crawley in Perth, Western Australia, and Koggala Lake in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). This linked up with the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC, the successor airline to Imperial Airways) service to London. 

Qantas’ kangaroo logo was first used on the “Kangaroo Route”, begun in 1944, from Sydney to Karachi, where BOAC crews took over for the rest of the journey to the UK.

In 1947, QEA was nationalised by the Australian government led by Labor Prime Minister Ben Chifley. QANTAS Limited was then wound up. After nationalisation, Qantas’ remaining domestic network, in Queensland, was transferred to the also nationally owned Trans-Australia Airlines, leaving Qantas with a purely international network.

Shortly after nationalisation, QEA began its first services outside the British Empire, to Tokyo. Services to Hong Kong began around the same time. In 1957 a head office, Qantas House, opened in Sydney.

Jet age

In June 1959 Qantas entered the jet age when the first Boeing 707–138 was delivered.

On 14 September 1992, Qantas merged with nationally owned domestic airline Australian Airlines (renamed from Trans-Australia Airlines in 1986). The airline started to be rebranded to Qantas in the following year.

Qantas was gradually privatised between 1993 and 1997. Under legislation passed to allow the privatisation, Qantas must be at least 51% owned by Australian shareholders.

In 1998, Qantas co-founded the Oneworld alliance with American Airlines, British Airways, Canadian Airlines and Cathay Pacific, with other airlines joining subsequently.

With the entry of new budget airline Virgin Blue (now Virgin Australia) into the domestic market in 2000, Qantas’ market share fell. Qantas created the budget Jetstar in 2001 to compete. The main domestic competitor to Qantas, Ansett Australia, collapsed on 14 September 2001.

Market share for Qantas immediately neared 90%, but competition with Virgin increased as it expanded; the market share of the Qantas Group eventually settled at a relatively stable position of about 65%, with 30% for Virgin and other regional airlines accounting for the rest of the market.

21st century developments

Qantas briefly revived the Australian Airlines name for a short-lived international budget airline between 2002 and 2006, but this subsidiary was shut down in favour of expanding Jetstar internationally, including to New Zealand. In 2004, the Qantas group expanded into the Asian budget airline market with Jetstar Asia Airways, in which Qantas owns a minority stake.

A similar model was used for the investment into Jetstar Pacific, headquartered in Vietnam, in 2007, and Jetstar Japan, launched in 2012.

In December 2006, Qantas was the subject of a failed bid from a consortium calling itself Airline Partners Australia. Merger talks with British Airways in 2008 also did not proceed to an agreement. 

In 2011, industrial relations dispute between Qantas and the Transport Workers Union of Australia resulted in the grounding of all Qantas aircraft and lock-out of the airline’s staff for two days.

On 25 March 2018, a Qantas Boeing 787 scheduled non-stop commercial flight between Australia and Europe connecting the two continents by air for the first time, with the inaugural arrival in London of Flight 9 (QF9). QF9 was a 17-hour, 14,498 km (9,009-mile) journey from Perth Airport in Western Australia to London Heathrow.

On 20 October 2019, Qantas Airways completed the longest commercial flight to date between New York City and Sydney using Boeing 787–9 Dreamliner in 19 hours and 20 minutes.

COVID-19 pandemic

On 19 March 2020, Qantas confirmed it would suspend about 60% of domestic flights, put two thirds of its employees on leave, suspend all international flights and ground more than 150 of its aircraft from the end of March until at least 31 May 2020 following expanded government travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

To survive the pandemic, Qantas announced that it would be axing 6,000 jobs and announced a plan to raise A$1.9 billion in new capital. Qantas also announced it would be offloading its 30% stake in Jetstar Pacific to Vietnam Airlines, hence retiring the Jetstar brand in Vietnam.

Qantas retired its last Boeing 747 in July 2020 after almost 49 years of continuous operation—the first 747 was inducted in August 1971, while all 12 Airbus A380s were placed in storage (10 at Mojave Air & Space Port and 2 at Los Angeles International Airport) for a minimum of three years. 

The pilots of the last Boeing 747 flight to Mojave Desert via Los Angeles traced the shape of the iconic Qantas logo in the flight path before the jet continued on its journey.

In November 2020, Qantas announced that the company will ask for proof of COVID-19 vaccination from international travelers. According to Alan Joyce, the firm’s CEO, a coronavirus vaccine would become a “necessity” when travelling,

“We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say for international travellers, we will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft.” Qantas also announced that it will cut 2000 jobs trying to limit its financial losses.

In August 2021, Qantas announced that it would require all of its 22,000 employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Source: Wikipedia

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.

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