Qantas Celebrates 100 Years of Australian Service on Monday November 16, 2020
The Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services (QANTAS) spread their wings in the Australian outback on November 16, 1920. 100 years ago, two Australian Flying Corps veterans, Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness, along with Fergus McMaster founded the carrier.
On Monday (November 16, 2020), the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service (Qantas) marked their 100th anniversary of Australian service. The national carrier was founded on November 16, 1920 by Australian Flying Corps veterans Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinnis along with local grazier (rancher) Fergus McMaster. Qantas was born just 17 years after the Wright Brothers first flight, two years after the end of WWI, and at the tail end of the global Spanish Flu pandemic. The risky endeavor aimed to conquer the “tyranny of distance” that stood in the way growth for modern Australia. So uncertain was the success of the new airline that early backers considered their investment a “donation.”
The airline initially carried mail between outback towns and by 1930s was carrying passengers to Singapore. Qantas was nationalized by the late 1940s and in the 1960s became an early adopter of jet aircraft which made global air travel mainstream. The company invented Business Class in the 1970s and switched to an all Boeing 747 fleet in the 1980s. Qantas was once again privatized in the 1990s and launched their Jetstar subsidiary in 2004. The flying kangaroo went through a major restructuring in 2014 and this year completed several game-changing long-haul flights with nonstop service between Europe and the U.S. Celebrating the airline’s 100th birthday, Qantas’ CEO, Alan Joyce, said,
“Today, we mark the 100th anniversary of Qantas. For me, there are a few simple facts that sum up why this airline has endured and what it means to Australia. Anyone who thinks the success of Qantas was a forgone conclusion need only consider its humble origins. It was started by two recently-returned WW1 pilots and a local grazier in outback Queensland using what was still a new form of transport, on the tail end of the last global pandemic, in 1920. The level of promise was such that some of the first shareholders referred to their investment as “a donation”.
“One of the founders, Hudson Fysh, would later reflect on the airline’s rocky start: “I realise now the absolute force and determination that were behind our all-out effort to survive,” he wrote. A solid dose of pragmatism certainly helped. Early board meetings of Qantas were held at the local tailor’s shop in the outback town of Longreach. Why? Because it had the longest table. It’s a small detail. But that’s the can-do attitude that defined how Qantas approached much bigger challenges in the years ahead. There was the shift from domestic to overseas flying in the 1930s. The famous ‘Double Sunrise’ flights in the 1940s to maintain the air link with Britain after the fall of Singapore, which flew in radio silence over hostile waters for so long, they saw the sun rise twice. The shift to government ownership, because of its strategic importance, by the 1950s. The start of the jet era in the 1960s, which coincided with waves of migration that helped shape modern Australia. Privatisation in the 1990s. Creating Jetstar in the 2000s.
“If you knew nothing else about Qantas, this story would be enough: in 1974, after Cyclone Tracy devastated Darwin, we set a record for the number of people carried on a 747 (674 to be precise) in an effort to evacuate the city as quickly as possible. Forty years later, when we marked the anniversary of that mission, two local Qantas workers helped unveil a plaque. Both of them had been children on that flight. Flying to help Australians in trouble is a core part of our identity as the national carrier. This year alone, we’ve operated over 100 repatriation flights for the Federal Government to bring people home from COVID hotspots. All flown by crew who volunteered.
“Distance has always defined Australia. Between our cities and regional towns, and from the rest of the world. Qantas prided itself on closing that gap. Before COVID interrupted, we were working on non-stop flights from the east coast to New York and London – the last frontier of global aviation. For most of this year, it’s the distance between Melbourne and Sydney (or any of our capitals) that has been the challenge. Hard state borders for the first time in, coincidently enough, about 100 years. Now, as Australia opens up, we’re ready to fly again. And when people see the familiar kangaroo on the tail, it has another bit of history behind it.”
Qantas is the oldest continuously-operating airline in the world, and the only carrier that serves all inhabited continents on earth. Regrettably, due to the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, the company’s centenary celebrations have been scaled back substantially. However, to mark the historic occasion, Qantas will perform a low-level flyover of Sydney Harbor on Monday evening (November 16, 2020), recreating the route where the airline’s Empire Flying Boats departed for Singapore between 1938 and 1942.