Qantas Celebrates 60 Years of Flying to South Africa

Sydney, 11 November 2008

Qantas will celebrate the 60th anniversary of flights between Australia and South Africa - known as the Wallaby Route - on 14 November 2008.

The Chief Executive Officer of Qantas, Mr Geoff Dixon, said the successful survey flight between Australia and South Africa in 1948 was another remarkable achievement for Qantas Empire Airways, following the introduction of the Kangaroo Route between Australia and the United Kingdom in 1947.

"Qantas Empire Airways' 1948 survey flight from Sydney to Johannesburg with a Lancastrian aircraft was a milestone in the airline's development as a long haul carrier," Mr Dixon said.

"It was particularly impressive to the South Africans at the time, whose own airlines had flown none of the world's oceans and whose major sea crossing was the Mediterranean."

The Qantas service from Sydney to Johannesburg via Perth, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Mauritius became the first direct service between Australia and South Africa. When commercial passenger services commenced four years later in 1952, operated by a Lockheed Constellation L-749A aircraft, the route became known as the Wallaby Route because of the 'short hops' between ports along the way.

When Electra aircraft were introduced on the route in the 1960s, new speed records were set and a flight time of 54 hours was recorded in June 1963 against the Super Constellation time of 61 hours, 40 minutes. Today, and with favourable tailwinds, Qantas B747-400 aircraft fly between Johannesburg and Sydney in under 12 hours.

Mr Dixon said the survey flight in 1948 paved the way for what would prove to be a very successful route for Qantas 60 years on.

"The past 60 years have seen major changes in aviation with faster aircraft and more affordable travel. The history of the Wallaby Route reflects these changes with more people able to travel between the two great continents," Mr Dixon said.

"South Africa is an important market for Qantas for both business and leisure travel. Today, Qantas operates five non-stop four-class B747-400 services per week between Sydney and Johannesburg, which will increase to six per week from 16 December 2008 and move to daily in 2009."

A promotional video to commemorate the route can be viewed at

A full media kit is available upon request.

Issued by Qantas Corporate Communication (3847)