The High-Flying Kangaroo: A Timeline Of Firsts With Qantas

Qantas plane flying up in the clouds

3.27min read

Published 31 May 2015


A respected industry leader and recognised the world over for its many contributions to aviation, Australia’s national airline and its iconic high-flying kangaroo have graced our skies for over 95 years. The airline has carried passengers from Australia to the world and back again as it helped open up the continent’s skies.

As Australia’s longest operating airline, and the world’s third oldest, Qantas is today, a brand indelibly ingrained in the Australian consciousness. When travelling abroad, the sight of the flying kangaroo is enough to evoke pride in country and a longing for home.

Innovation, determination, and plenty of forward thinking, have all played a part in the success of Qantas over the decades. As a result of that commitment, Qantas has been responsible for many firsts in the airline industry.

Boasting many accolades, we take a look at several of those firsts during the long evolution of one of the world’s great airlines.

Qantas plane flying up in the clouds
Qantas is a staple in Australian and international flying

20th Century

1943-45 – Qantas flew the world’s longest route - 28 hours in total - from Perth to Colombo (Sri Lanka) using Catalina Flying Boats. Undertaken in almost total radio silence to avoid Japanese attacks, there were 271 safe crossings, 858 passengers carried and nearly a million miles flown.

1958 – The first airline to offer round-the-world services via both hemispheres.

1959 – The first airline outside the United States to fly Boeing 707 jets and the first to take passengers by jet across the Pacific Ocean.

1965 - Qantas employee Jack Grant invented the inflatable aircraft escape slide-raft.

1974 - World record for largest passenger load, evacuating 674 passengers, with 23 crew, on a Boeing 747 after Cyclone Tracy devastated Darwin during the Christmas period.

1979 – Qantas invented and termed the phrase Business Class.

1980s – Qantas played a leading role in developing Extended Twin Operations with the Boeing 767-200ER fleet, dramatically improving reliability, saving fuel and reducing flight times for the carrier.

1989 – World’s longest flight undertaken by a commercial jet aircraft; London-Sydney non-stop on the first Boeing 747-400 to be delivered to Qantas. ‘City of Canberra’ completed the flight in 20 hours and 9 minutes.

1995 – Leading role in the use of Future Air Navigation system to optimise routing and save fuel.

 Qantas pilot posing in the cockpit
Qantas pilots have been part of numerous aviation milestones over the years

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21st Century

2001 – Pioneered flying operations over the Silk Road route, saving 30 minutes’ flying time, after six years’ planning with the Civil Aviation Authority of China and Air Services Australia.

2002 – First airline to introduce Rockwell Collins Multi Scan radar on B747-400ERs to detect the ice content of storms to deliver a smoother flying experience.

2003 – First airline to introduce specialised cabin mood lighting on long haul flights to promote well-being and reduce jetlag.

2004 – First full service airline to successfully launch a budget airline, Jetstar, with the largest first day of commercial sales (100,000 fares) in aviation history.

2006 – First airline to launch low-fare long-haul operations with Jetstar.

2006 – First airline to perform a landing using the satellite technology-based Global Landing System with a Boeing 737-800.

2007 – First airline to offer a ‘degustation’ First Tasting Menu with Neil Perry cuisine.

2008 – Introduced the Qantas Airbus A380, the world’s first passenger aircraft cabin wholly conceived by one acclaimed designer: Marc Newson.

2008 – World record for commercial engine performance with 42,019 hours on-wing (equal to 1,000 return trips to the UK) with a Qantas General Electric CF6-80C2 engine installed on a Boeing 747-400 aircraft for nine years.

Meal served for economy passengers of Qantas Airways
Qantas has always focused on the little touches that make flying memorable

2008 – Achieved a ‘perfect flight path gate to gate’ with the inaugural A380 service between Los Angeles and Melbourne using Required Navigation Performance and air traffic management to save thousands of kilograms of carbon emissions.

2008 – Only airline to offer Premium Economy with in-arm inflight entertainment.

2010 – Introduced a new era of domestic flying with Faster, Smarter Check-in and a world first Q Bag Tag.

2011 – Launches services from Sydney to Dallas Fort Worth, which later became the longest commercial passenger flight in the world (by distance).

2011 – Launch of in-house customer-focused innovation house, which has led to several customer enhancements including the Boeing 767 refresh (now retired), Q Streaming and Select on Q-Eat.

2014 – First to fly the world’s largest aircraft (Airbus A380) on the world’s longest route from Sydney to Dallas.

2014 – First to fly an Airbus A380 into Dallas Fort Worth.

2015 – First to launch the worlds deepest recline for take-off, taxi and landing in the upgraded Airbus A330 fleet, as well as a ‘Do Not Disturb’ button.

2015 – Qantas Oroton Sleep Collection - world-first partnership with Oroton featuring combined amenity kit and sleeper suits for select cabins.

Passengers enjoying the amenities of Qantas Airline premium Economy
Qantas' premium economy seating can feel like business class

Product-Specific Firsts For Qantas

  • Airbus A380 Economy Seat was the first carbon fibre airline seat and winner of the 2009 Australian International Design Award of the Year
  • Q streaming – worlds first streaming of inflight entertainment to devises within the aircraft
  • Sommelier training –significant investment and time into training cabin crew in the fine knowledge of wine
  • Qantas is the only airline to offer a ‘market inspiration’ dish served inflight in First Class. This is a dish that is designed to rotate and is not listed on the menu. It’s offered on flights out of Australia focusing on seasonal produce in its prime.
  • All new international Economy offering – food served without a tray with 50% larger meals served on a plate, butter infused bread rolls and more dining space
  • Select on Q Eat in Business, Premium Economy and Economy. Select on Q Eat offers the ability to order up to 12hours prior to departure in comparison to most airline at 24 hours.
  • Self-service bars in Economy on the Airbus A380 and Boeing 747-400s

(Source: Qantas)

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