The Birth of Qantas
Qantas was established by pioneer aviators Paul McGinness and Wilmot Hudson Fysh and grazier, Fergus McMaster, and registered in Brisbane on 16 November 1920. The company takes its name from the original registered title, Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited. After the first Board meeting in Winton on 10 February 1921, the company relocated to Longreach later the same year, Brisbane in 1930 and to its current corporate headquarters in Sydney in 1938.
The company began its operations with joyrides and air taxi flights. Regular scheduled airmail and passenger services began on 2 November 1922, from Charleville to Cloncurry in rural Queensland. The journey of 923 kilometres took two days with an overnight stop at Longreach. Passenger ticket No. 1 was issued to 84 year old Alexander Kennedy, a pioneer of western Queensland.
Qantas has played a key role in the development of Australian and international aviation. In 1928 it operated the first flying doctor service for the Reverend John Flynn’s Australian Inland Mission.
World War II
During the second World War from 1939 to 1945, Qantas maintained vital air links, flew supply drops at treetop level in New Guinea (now Papua New Guinea) and established the ‘Double Sunrise’ non-stop flights across the Indian Ocean with Catalina flying boats operating in radio silence.
The company expanded rapidly after the war. In 1947 the Australian Government purchased the shares held by Imperial Airways – which had become BOAC – together with all remaining shares. That year Qantas took delivery of its first pressurised long-range Lockheed Constellation which went into service on the ‘Kangaroo’ Route. Qantas made its first Sydney-London flight in its own right in December 1947, leaving Australia on 1 December and landing in the UK on 5 December. Qantas celebrated the 50th anniversary of the flight with gala dinners in Sydney and London, and the publication of a commemorative book – The Longest Hop – in December 1997. The airline’s services to Japan began in 1950, Qantas inaugurated its own commercial services to Japan. Qantas added Hong Kong in 1949 and South Africa in 1952.
USA and the World
Qantas began flying to San Francisco and Vancouver in October 1953, and in 1956 carried the Olympic flame from Athens to Darwin as part of its journey to the Melbourne Olympics. Round-the-world services with Super Constellations began on 14 January 1958. Qantas entered the jet age in 1959, taking delivery of the first Boeing 707 owned by a non-US airline. In 1967, the name changed to Qantas Airways Limited and the company ordered the advanced B model of the Boeing 747 which went into service in September 1971. The first Qantas Longreach series Boeing 747-400, delivered in August 1989, set a world distance record for a commercial jet when it flew London-Sydney non-stop, a record which stood until 1993.
Australian Airlines helped to pioneer domestic commercial aviation. Beginning as Trans-Australia Airlines, the company flew its first passengers from Melbourne to Sydney in a Douglas DC3 in September 1946. In August 1986 TAA became Australian Airlines, with a new focus on customer service and the business market. Qantas purchased Australian Airlines in 1992 and integrated its operations into the company.
In June 1992, the Government accepted the Qantas bid for Australian Airlines and decided to privatise fully the Qantas Group. The $A400 million purchase of Australian Airlines was completed in September 1992 and the operations of the two airlines were merged under the single Qantas brand in October 1993. The privatisation of Qantas began with a trade sale and in December 1992 the Government selected British Airways as the successful bidder. British Airways completed its $A665 million purchase of 25 percent of Qantas in March 1993. The Public Share Offer was launched on 22 June 1995. The privatisation was completed and Qantas shares listed on the Australian Stock Exchange on 31 July 1995.
International Air Transport Association (IATA) comparisons for the 1999 calendar year show that Qantas is the world’s 12th largest airline in terms of Revenue Passenger Kilometres (RPKs). The Qantas core jet fleet consists of 107 Boeing aircraft. A further 44 aircraft are operated by four regional subsidiaries. The Qantas Group carried more than 20 million passengers in 1999/2000 and serves 124 destinations – 59 in Australia and 65 in 36 other countries. It employs around 30,000 people worldwide.