Qantas - Third oldest Airline in the World Approaches 100 Years

20 Nov 2019

While South African Airways stares into an uncertain future on the other side of  the Indian Ocean Qantas Airlines, the Australian National Airline, is about to Celebrate their 100 year of existence. Qantas was founded in Winton, Queensland on 16 November 1920 by Hudson Fysh, Paul McGinness and Fergus McMaster as Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited. The airline's first aircraft was an Avro 504K. It moved its headquarters to Longreach, Queensland in 1921 and Brisbane, Queensland in 1930.

In 1934, QANTAS and Britain's Imperial Airways (a forerunner of British Airways) formed a new company, Qantas Empire Airways Limited (QEA). The new airline commenced operations in December 1934, flying between Brisbane and Darwin. QEA flew internationally from May 1935, when the service from Darwin was extended to Singapore. When World War II began, enemy action and accidents destroyed half of the fleet of ten, and most of the fleet was taken over by the Australian government for war service.

Flying boat services were resumed in 1943, with flights between the Swan River at Crawley in Perth, Western Australia and Koggala Lake in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). This linked up with the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC, the successor airline to Imperial Airways) service to London. Qantas' kangaroo logo was first used on the "Kangaroo Route", begun in 1944, from Sydney to Karachi, where BOAC crews took over for the rest of the journey to the UK.

In 1947, QEA was nationalised by the Australian government led by Labour Prime Minister Ben Chifley. QANTAS Limited was then wound up. After nationalisation, Qantas' remaining domestic network, in Queensland, was transferred to the also nationally owned Trans-Australia Airlines, leaving Qantas with a purely international network. Shortly after nationalisation, QEA began its first services outside the British Empire, to Tokyo. Services to Hong Kong began around the same time. In 1957 a head office, Qantas House, opened in Sydney. In June 1959 Qantas entered the jet age when the first Boeing 707-138 was delivered.

On 14 September 1992, Qantas merged with nationally owned domestic airline, Australian Airlines, renamed from Trans-Australia Airlines in 1986. The airline started to be rebranded to Qantas in the following year. Qantas was gradually privatised between 1993 and 1997. Under the legislation passed to allow the privatisation, Qantas must be at least 51% owned by Australian shareholders.

 

In 1998, Qantas co-founded the OneWorld alliance with American Airlines, British Airways, Canadian Airlines, and Cathay Pacific, with other airlines joining subsequently.

With the entry of new budget airline Virgin Blue, now Virgin Australia, into the domestic market in 2000, Qantas' market share fell. Qantas created the budget Jetstar Airways in 2001 to compete. The main domestic competitor to Qantas, Ansett Australia, collapsed on 14 September 2001. Market share for Qantas immediately neared 90%, but competition with Virgin increased as it expanded; the market share of the Qantas Group eventually settled at a relatively stable position of about 65%, with 30% for Virgin and other regional airlines accounting for the rest of the market.

 

Qantas briefly revived the Australian Airlines name for a short-lived international budget airline between 2002 and 2006, but this subsidiary was shut down in favour of expanding Jetstar internationally, including to New Zealand. In 2004, the Qantas group expanded into the Asian budget airline market with Jetstar Asia Airways, in which Qantas owns a minority stake. A similar model was used for the investment into Jetstar Pacific, headquartered in Vietnam, in 2007, and Jetstar Japan, launched in 2012.

 

 

In December 2006, Qantas was the subject of a failed bid from a consortium calling itself Airline Partners Australia. Merger talks with British Airways in 2008 also did not proceed to an agreement. In 2011, an industrial relations dispute between Qantas and the Transport Workers Union of Australia resulted in the grounding of all Qantas aircraft and lock-out of the airline's staff for two days.

On 25 March 2018, a Qantas Boeing 787 Dreamliner became the first aircraft to operate a scheduled non-stop commercial flight between Australia and Europe, with the inaugural arrival in London of Flight 9 (QF9). QF9 was a 17-hour, 14,498 km journey from Perth Airport in Western Australia to London Heathrow.  On 20 October 2019, Qantas Airways completed the longest commercial flight to date between New York and Sydney using Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner in 19hr 20mins.

An early television campaign, starting in 1969 and running for several decades, was aimed at American audiences; it featured a live koala, voiced by Howard Morris, who complained that too many tourists were coming to Australia and concluded "I hate Qantas." The koala ads have been ranked among the greatest commercials of all time. A long-running advertising campaign features renditions by children's choirs of Peter Allen's "I Still Call Australia Home", at various famous landmarks in Australia and foreign locations such as Venice.

Qantas is the main sponsor of the Australia national rugby union team. It also sponsors the Socceroo’s, Australia's national association football team. Qantas was the naming rights sponsor for the Formula One Australian Grand Prix from 2010 until 2012. On 26 December 2011, Qantas signed a four-year deal with Australian cricket's governing body Cricket Australia, to be the official carrier of the Australia national cricket team.

 Sport Liveries 

 

In August 2011, the company announced that following financial losses of A$200 million for the year ending June 2011 and a decline in market share, major structural changes would be made. As part of the changes up to 1,000 jobs would be lost in Australia, and a new Asia-based premium airline was to be set up and operate under a different name. Also announced was an intention to launch a budget airline, Jetstar Japan, in partnership with Japan Airlines and Mitsubishi Corporation. The direction was deemed necessary because of losses in the airline's international operations as a result of increased competition from airlines such as Emirates and Singapore Airlines along with the deregulation of Australian international routes during the mid-to-late 1980s. The reforms included route changes, in particular the cessation of services to London via Hong Kong and Bangkok. While Qantas would still operate to these cities, onward flights to London would be via its OneWorld partner British Airways under a code-share service.

 

The following year Qantas reported a A$245 million full-year loss to the end of June 2012, citing high fuel prices, intense competition and industrial disputes. This was the first full year loss since Qantas was fully privatised 17 years previously, in 1995, and led to the airline cancelling its order of 35 new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, to reduce its spending. In focusing on core business, Qantas also divested itself of its 50% holding of StarTrack, Australia's largest road freight company, in part for acquiring full interest in Australian Air Express. In that year on 26 March 2012, Qantas announced it would set up Jetstar Hong Kong with China Eastern Airlines Corporation, which was intended to begin flights in 2013, but became embroiled in a protracted approval process.

 

Qantas and Emirates began an alliance on 31 March 2013, in which their combined carriers offered 98 flights per week to Dubai, that saw bookings up six-fold. In September 2013, following the announcement the carrier expected another A$250 million net loss for the half-year period that ended on 31 December and the implementation of further cost-cutting measures that would see the cut of 1,000 jobs within a year, S&P downgraded Qantas credit from BBB- (the lowest investment grade) to BB+. Moody's applied a similar downgrading a month later.

 

Losses continued into 2014 reporting year, with the Qantas Group reporting a half year loss of A$235 million and eventual full year loss of A$2.84 billion. In February 2014 additional cost-cutting measures to save A$2 billion, including the loss of 5,000 jobs that will see the workforce lowered from 32,000 to 27,000 by 2017 were announced. In May 2014 the company stated it expected to shed 2,200 jobs by June 2014, including those of 100 pilots. The carrier also reduced the size of its fleet by retiring aircraft and deferring deliveries; and planned to sell some of its assets. With 2,200 employees laid off by June 2014, another 1,800 job positions were planned to be cut by June 2015. Also, during 2014 the Qantas Sale Act, under which the airline was privatised, was amended to repeal parts of paragraph 7. That act limits foreign ownership of Qantas to 49 percent, with foreign airlines subject to further restrictions, including a 35-percent limit for all foreign airline shareholdings combined. In addition, a single foreign entity can hold no more than 25 percent of the airline's shares.

 

The airline returned to profit in 2015, announcing a A$557 million after tax profit in August 2015, in contrast with a A$2.84 billion loss the year earlier. In 2015, Qantas sold its lease of Terminal 3 at Sydney Airport, which was due to continue until 2019, back to Sydney Airport Corporation for $535 million. This meant Sydney Airport resumed operational responsibility of the terminal, including the lucrative retail areas. 

Qantas operates flightseeing charters to Antarctica on behalf of Croydon Travel. It first flew Antarctic flightseeing trips in 1977. They were suspended for a number of years due to the crash of Air New Zealand Flight 901 on Mount Erebus in 1979. Qantas restarted the flights in 1994. Although these flights do not touch down, they require specific polar operations and crew training due to factors like sector whiteout, which contributed to the 1979 Air New Zealand disaster.

With Flights 7 and 8, a non-stop service between Sydney and Dallas/Fort Worth operated by the Airbus A380, commencing on 29 September 2014, Qantas operated the world's longest passenger flight on the world's largest passenger aircraft. This was overtaken on 1 March 2016 by Emirates' new Auckland-Dubai service. After it ordered Boeing 787 aircraft, Qantas announced an intention to launch non-stop flights between Australia and the United Kingdom during March 2018 from Perth, Western Australia to London. The inaugural flight left Perth on 24 March.

 

 

Qantas Mainline fleet

 

Airbus A330-200               18

Airbus A330-300               10

Airbus A380-800               12

Boeing 737-800                75

Boeing 747-400ER           6

Boeing 787-9                    10

As of November 2018, Qantas and its subsidiaries operated 297 aircraft, including 71 aircraft by Jetstar Airways; 89 by the various QantasLink-branded airlines (including five operated in Jetstar Airways livery); and six by Express Freighters Australia (on behalf of Qantas Freight, which also wet leases three Atlas Air Boeing 747-400Fs

 

On 19 June 2019, during the Paris Air Show, Qantas Group converted 26 Airbus A321neo orders to the A321XLR and 10 orders to the A321LR and ordered an additional 10 A321XLRs. This brought Qantas Group's total Airbus A320neo family order to 109 aircraft, consisting of 45 A320neos, 28 A321LRs, and 36 A321XLRs. At the time of the announcement, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce stated that a decision had not yet been made on how the aircraft would be distributed between Qantas and Jetstar Airways, or whether they were to be used for network growth or the replacement of older aircraft.

 

Qantas has named its aircraft since 1926. Themes have included Greek gods, stars, people in Australian aviation history, and Australian birds. Since 1959, the majority of Qantas aircraft have been named after Australian cities. The Airbus A380 series, the flagship of the airline, is named after Australian aviation pioneers, with the first A380 named Nancy-Bird Walton.

Qantas’ newest fleet member, Boeing 787 Dreamliner, was named Longreach, features a special Qantas Centenary livery, is named after the Queensland town integral to their beginnings and its role in conquering the tyranny of distance, as well as after our Longreach series of retiring 747-400 jumbo jets.

Two Qantas aircraft are currently decorated with an Indigenous Australian art scheme. One aircraft, a Boeing 737-800, wears a livery called Mendoowoorrji, which was revealed in November 2013. The design was drawn from the late West Australian Aboriginal artist Paddy Bedford.

A Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner is adorned in a paint scheme inspired by the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye's 1991 painting Yam Dreaming. The adaptation of Yam Dreaming to the aircraft, led by Balarinji, a Sydney-based and Aboriginal owned design firm, incorporates the red Qantas tailfin into the design, which includes white dots with red and orange tones. The design depicts the yam plant, an important and culturally significant symbol in Kngwarreye's Dreaming stories, and a staple food source in her home region of Utopia. The design was applied to the aircraft at Boeing's Paine Field facility in Everett, Washington, prior to its delivery in March 2018 to Alice Springs Airport, situated 230 kilometres southeast of Utopia, where the aircraft was met by Kngwarreye's descendants, the local community, and Qantas executives the aircraft would later operate Qantas' inaugural nonstop services between Perth and London Heathrow, and between Melbourne and San Francisco, scheduled with Boeing 787 aircraft.

Australian Aboriginal art designs have previously adorned some Qantas aircraft; the first design was called Wunala Dreaming, which was unveiled in 1994 and had been painted on now-retired Boeing 747-400 and 747-400ER aircraft between 1994 and 2012. The motif was an overall-red design depicting ancestral spirits in the form of kangaroos travelling in the outback.

The second design was called Nalanji Dreaming and was depicted on a Boeing 747-300 from 1995 until its retirement in 2005. Nalanji Dreaming was a bright blue design inspired by rainforest landscape and tropical seas.

The third design was titled Yananyi Dreaming and featured a depiction of Uluru. The scheme was designed by Uluru-based artist Rene Kulitja, in collaboration with Balarinji. It was painted on the 737 at the Boeing factory prior to its delivery in 2002. It was repainted into the standard livery in 2014.

In November 2014 the airline revealed that the 75th Boeing 737-800 jet to be delivered would carry a 'retro-livery' based on the airline's 1971 'ochre' colour scheme design featuring the iconic 'Flying Kangaroo' on its tail and other aspects drawn from its 1970s fleet. The aircraft was delivered on 17 November.

Qantas announced two 737-800 would receive a 'retro roo' livery in October 2015. On 16 November 2015 the airline unveiled the second 'retro roo' 737, bearing a replica livery from 1959 to celebrate the airline's 95th birthday. 

It is often claimed that Qantas has never had an aircraft crash. While it is true that the company has neither lost a jet airliner nor had any jet fatalities, it had eight fatal accidents and an aircraft shot down between 1927 and 1945, with the loss of 63 people. Half of these accidents and the shoot-down occurred during World War II, when the Qantas aircraft were operating on behalf of Allied military forces. Post-war, it lost another four aircraft, one was owned by BOAC and operated by Qantas in a pooling arrangement, with a total of 21 people killed. The last fatal accidents suffered by Qantas were in 1951, with three fatal crashes in five months. Qantas' safety record allows the airline to be officially known as the world's safest airline for seven years in a row from 2012 until 2019.

 

On 4 November 2010, Qantas Flight 32, an Airbus A380 registered VH-OQA, fitted with four Rolls-Royce Trent 972 engines, suffered an uncontained turbine disc failure of its left inboard engine shortly after taking off from Singapore Changi Airport en route to Sydney. The aircraft returned to Singapore and landed safely, and all 440 passengers and 29 crew on board were uninjured.

 Happy 100th Birthday Qantas we wish you many more safe flying years. 

 

 

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