The Qantas story is inextricably linked with the development of civil aviation in Australia. It begins with fragile biplanes carrying one or two passengers in open cockpits and progresses to the magnificent A380, flying some 450 people half way around the world in a day.
However, it is a story of human endeavour, not just machines. In 1920, a few determined individuals overcame formidable obstacles to establish the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Ltd (Qantas) in Winton, with headquarters moved to Longreach shortly after. In 1922, the first scheduled Qantas mail and passenger flight operated from Charleville to Cloncurry, Queensland.
Two years later, the Prime Minister of Australia, S M Bruce, made Parliamentary history by becoming the first Australian Prime Minister to use air travel for an official journey. Qantas recorded its first profit of £1,224 ($2,448). Over the new few years, Qantas launched the Flying Doctor service and carried airmail from Brisbane to Darwin.
The airline moved its headquarters to Brisbane in 1929. Qantas had just completed its first one million miles (1,600,000km) and had carried 10,400 passengers.
Norm Roberts, a Station Engineer, years later described the move of Qantas headquarters from Brisbane to Sydney in 1938, “It seems amazing when you consider the present size of the firm, but on that move we loaded Qantas onto two flying boats and shifted the entire firm down, staff and all, one Saturday afternoon!”
Supported by committed staff and loyal customers, the airline persevered through war and peace to serve the nation and build an enterprise. When the war ended, Qantas began the task of rebuilding and modernising its fleet, and in 1959, Qantas became the first non-US airline to introduce Boeing 707s which halved travel times on trans-Pacific routes.
The name was changed to Qantas Airways Limited in 1967 and in the late ’70s Qantas became the world’s only all-747 airline. The airline went from strength to strength – introducing the Boeing 767s; buying Australian Airlines (formerly TAA) for A$400 million; selling a 25% share of the airline to British Airways; and undertaking a comprehensive update of its service.
By 1995, Qantas was considered one of the world’s great airlines operating a fleet of more than 130 aircraft, carrying more than 14 million passengers annually.
This century has seen Qantas launch a new domestic low cost carrier, Jetstar, and introduce the A380 to its fleet.
Today, 89 years on, Qantas is widely regarded as the world’s leading long distance airline and one of the strongest brands in Australia. Qantas continues to provide outstanding service to its customers and is at the forefront of the international civil aviation industry and is still the only airline in the world to have built and flown its own aircraft.