100 Years Of Qantas In The UK: Enter The Jet Age

Qantas enters the Jet Age in the 1960s with the Boeing 707 bringing radical improvements to journey times and its route network.

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Qantas Boeing 707-138 "City Of Canberra"
Qantas Boeing 707-138 “City Of Canberra” (Image Credit: Qantas)

On 16 November 2020, Qantas will mark 100 years since its incorporation as Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Ltd.

In the first part of our series on Qantas in the UK, we looked at Qantas early co-operation with Imperial Airways and BOAC and its own first flights to London.

Over the course of the 1960s, Qantas entered the jet age, operating the Boeing 707 on routes from London. This delivered radical improvements to journey times and increased the scope of its global network.

Qantas Boeing 707 Jets From London, 31 July 1959
Qantas Boeing 707 Jets From London, 31 July 1959

The first Qantas Boeing 707 routes from London operated to Sydney via the Pacific. The first flight departed London on 31 July 1959, two days after its inaugural flight from Sydney to San Francisco.

Passengers could fly from London to Sydney via San Francisco in just over 30 hours, saving over 25 hours’ journey time. It would shortly fly the “Kangaroo Route” to Australia via Singapore.

Qantas Boeing 707 Jets Around The World, October 1959
Qantas Boeing 707 Jets Around The World, October 1959

“Fastest Jets To USA & Australia”

Two years later in 1961 introduced a special version of the Boeing 707 known as the “V Jet”.

This had more powerful engines, delivering more journey time improvements from London to Sydney.

Qantas Boeing 707 V-Jets, 25 September 1961
Qantas Boeing 707 V-Jets, 25 September 1961

“The V-Jet Express To Hong Kong”

Qantas went on to add more routes to Australia with a third Boeing 707 route to Hong Kong operating twice weekly via Athens / Istanbul, Tehran and New Delhi in 1964.

Qantas Boeing 707 V-Jet Flights From London To Hong Kong, March 1964
Qantas Boeing 707 V-Jet Flights From London To Hong Kong, March 1964

A fourth route from London to Sydney via Bermuda, Nassau, Mexico City, Acapulco, Tahiti and Fiji in 1965, known as the “Fiesta” route, proved to be relatively short-lived.

Qantas Fiesta Route, London To Sydney via Mexico City, January 1965
Qantas Fiesta Route, London To Sydney via Mexico City, January 1965

By the late 1960s Qantas could claim to be a truly global airline serving many destinations in the Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Qantas Global Route Network 1966
Qantas Global Route Network 1966

The next decade would be marked by an aircraft that delivered the single most radical improvements to travel between the UK and Australia, the Boeing 747.

The Boeing 707 remains a significant part of Qantas’ legacy. Qantas’ first Boeing 707 was restored and brought back to Australia in 2006 by a team of enthusiasts. It now resides at the Qantas Founders Museum at Longreach. You can read the full story of its return on Australian Aviation.

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