Qantas will be flying a historic direct flight from Sydney to London via the original “Kangaroo Route”. The airline will fly flight QF001 using an Airbus A380 to retrace the original route from the 1930’s. The original route used Shorts S.23 flying boats to make this 12,847-mile journey. Before COVID-19, airlines have been in competition to fly the longest passenger route. It is COVID-19 that has brought this flight back to life for a few short days. Qantas will ground all 150 of its aircraft until at least the end of May, 2020.
Qantas was founded on November 16, 1920 as Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited in Winston, Queensland. The airline began flying air taxi, sightseeing and mail routes that were subsidized by the Australian government. In the late 1920’s, QANTAS built several aircraft which made the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia possible. In 1934, passenger services began with Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. combining Qantas with Imperial Airways of the U.K. International service began in 1935 between Darwin to Singapore. This began the use of flying boats. Nearly 100 years later after the founding, Qantas is retracing the Darwin to London route this month using an Airbus A-380.
The Historic Flight
QF001 will be flying from Sydney to London on March 26, 2020. The original route went through Singapore and took 37 days with 10 stops along the way. Back then, the round-trip airfare was 400 GBP which was the equivalent of two years’ of minimum wage earnings.
The retracing of this flight takes a detour through Darwin. Qantas will refuel the A-380 in Darwin for the flight to London because Singapore airport is closed due to COVID-19. This is how the historical Darwin to London route was made, completely due to factors outside of Qantas’ control. The A-380 flight will take just over 16 hours including the 90-minute refueling stop in Darwin.
Aboard the Qantas Flying Boats
Before the 1990’s, flying was a memorable and even a glamorous way to travel. I remember what it was like on my first airline flight in 1967. Men and boys wore suits and ties. Women and girls wore dresses and even gloves. Airline employees, especially flight crews were pleasant, doing everything they could to make your flight pleasant. This was all before airline deregulation and a few economic recessions killed “the golden age” of flying.
I am an avgeek and there is nothing an avgeek loves more than airliner nostalgia. This historic flight is also bittersweet as Qantas will be parking its entire fleet including their 12 Airbus A-380 aircraft. Whether the A-380’s will return to service after COVID-19 may be in doubt. The airline recovery will be long and painful. The first aircraft to face uncertain destiny will be the aircraft that are least fuel-efficient including the super-jumbo airliners.
Thank you for flying today on Qantas flight 001 and remember to keep your seatbelts fastened until we reach the gate and the captain has turned off the fasten seatbelt sign.