Qantas Celebrates 60 Years on the Kangaroo Route

Sydney, 30 November 2007

Qantas will celebrate its 60th anniversary of flying the Kangaroo Route between Australia and the United Kingdom tomorrow.

The Chief Executive Officer of Qantas, Mr Geoff Dixon, said the departure of the Lockheed Constellation Charles Kingsford Smith from Sydney on 1 December 1947 marked the beginning of a new era of transportation between the two countries.

"The service was the first scheduled Qantas flight to London on an Australian owned aircraft with Australian crew," Mr Dixon said.

"Prior to December 1947, Qantas cooperated with Imperial Airways to provide a commercial link between Australia and the UK, with passengers flying on Qantas to Singapore then with Imperial Airways for the remainder of their journey to London."

Mr Dixon said the Kangaroo Route remained one of the world's most historically important and celebrated air routes.

"The Kangaroo Route helped seal Qantas' reputation as a leader in long distance international air travel," he said.

"While changes in air travel over the last 60 years have been spectacular, this particular route has always had an iconic status for us - and for the broader aviation industry."

Qantas' first Kangaroo Route service departed Sydney and flew to Darwin, Singapore (overnight), Calcutta, Karachi, Cairo (overnight) and Tripoli, before arriving in London after some 55 hours in the air and over 93 hours in total. The four-night journey carried 29 passengers and 11 crew.

"That first flight in 1947 was a momentous step in Australian aviation and literally brought Australia closer to the rest of world," Mr Dixon said.

"Our Kangaroo Route flights provided essential mail and passenger services between Australia and the UK, with the first flight carrying over 2,000lbs of food parcels to help Britain cope with postwar shortages."

Mr Dixon said new aircraft had changed the way Qantas flew the Kangaroo Route over the years. The first Constellations were replaced by Super Constellations, which in turn were replaced by Qantas' first jet aircraft - the Boeing 707, which reduced the trip from four days to 30 hours. The introduction of the Boeing 747-400 in 1989 further reduced the journey, which now takes 23 hours with only one stop.

"While technology has brought significant developments to the Kangaroo Route over 60 years, one of the biggest changes has been the cost of travel."

Mr Dixon said the cost of a return fare in 1947 was £585 - a significant sum of money, given the price of a suburban home was between £600 and £800 and the typical weekly wage for many Australians at the time was £7.

In 1945 it would have taken 130 weeks' wages to pay for a return airfare between Sydney and London. Today it takes less than two weeks' wages.

"Air travel was an unattainable dream for most people in 1947, 60 years later flying between Australia and the UK has become an everyday occurrence for thousands of people, with Qantas alone operating four return services to London each day, every day of the year," he said.

"While the nature of the aircraft and the journey today are greatly different from 1947, one thing remains constant - the Kangaroo Route still provides a vital link for business and leisure travellers between Australia and the UK."

Issued by Qantas Corporate Communication (3692)