What do the Queen and ABBA Have in Common?

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Since the first international flight in 1935 – a DH86 that transported British aristocrat Lady Mountbatten to Singapore – Qantas has had a long history of flying VIPs. We look back at some of the airline’s favourite high-flying celebrity passengers.

1936: Charlie Chaplin

Fresh from the release of his satirical comedy Modern Times and only a year after the airline began flying internationally, silent movie star Charlie Chaplin took his then-wife and co-star, Paulette Goddard, and her mother, Alta Mae, from Singapore to Indonesia on a Qantas DH86.

1954: Royalty

The Queen has flown Qantas during several of her Australian tours. In 1954, Her Majesty enjoyed a special regal menu and a curtain with Crown insignia separated the “Royal suite” from the rest of the cabin. Other members of her family, including Prince Charles and the Dukes and Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex, have also flown Qantas during their various trips Down Under.

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1959: Gregory Peck

Hollywood came to Melbourne when Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Gregory Peck flew in to film the post-apocalyptic drama On The Beach.

1964: The Beatles

The hysteria around the Beatles’ only Australian tour in 1964 made headlines around the world, especially when they were greeted by 300,000 screaming fans in Adelaide. Three weeks later the band flew home to London on a Qantas 707. An air steward who asked them to autograph a menu, which was later auctioned, included notes on each member: Paul McCartney was “a thorough gentleman”, while John Lennon “slept all the way”.

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1977: ABBA

As an official sponsor of ABBA’s 1977 Australian tour, Qantas provided the Swedish pop group with some on-trend airline merchandise: bespoke white bomber jackets. One of the jackets is now on display at ABBA The Museum in Stockholm.

2002: John Travolta

The Grease and Pulp Fiction star and self-confessed aviation geek was appointed Qantas Ambassador-at-Large in 2002. A qualified captain, Travolta piloted his own ex-Qantas Boeing 707 jet, painted in original 1960s livery. He was also on board when Oprah Winfrey flew 300 of her audience members to Australia for a week-long special in 2010.

2013: Ellen DeGeneres

American comedian Ellen DeGeneres brought her talk-show audience to Australia and filmed segments on the flight, QF108 from Los Angeles, an A380 which was temporarily renamed The Ellen DeGeneres Show Express.

2019: Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe

On their way home for Christmas 2019, Oscar winners Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe were on the same flight from Los Angeles to Sydney. “Hey @qantas thanks for getting me home in time for Christmas out of the craziness that is LAX, and thanks for the pure gift of sitting me next to one of my favourite people in the universe,” tweeted Crowe.

SEE ALSO: The Qantas Ad that Changed Paul and Ell's Lives

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