100 Years Of Qantas In The UK: The Boeing 747 Era

How the Boeing 747 transformed flying to Australia reducing journey times and enabling Australia to be reached with just one stop en route.

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Qantas Boeing 747 VH-EBA Seattle Test Flight Seattle 1971
Qantas Boeing 747 VH-EBA Seattle Test Flight Seattle 1971 (Image Credit: Qantas Airways)

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 its early co-operation with Imperial Airways and BOAC. In part two we looked at how the Boeing 707 allowed Qantas to establish itself as a round-the-world airline.

It is no exaggeration to say that, throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Boeing 747 transformed flying between Europe and Australia, enabling it to be ultimately reached with just one stop en route.

The Boeing 747B At Qantas

Qantas Boeing 747-238B “City Of Canberra”
Qantas Boeing 747-238B “City Of Canberra” (Image Credit: Qantas Airways)

Qantas’ first Boeing 747 aircraft was the 747B. This had the same dimensions as the first version of the 747, but with a longer range and higher maximum take-off weight.

It had capacity for 356 passengers, with the galleys located below the main deck. In common with other airlines, there was a dedicated “Captain Cook” lounge for First Class passengers on the Upper Deck with a nautical theme and a rather lurid 1970s colour scheme!

Qantas Boeing 747 First Class Captain Cook Lounge, 1970s
Qantas Boeing 747 First Class Captain Cook Lounge, 1970s (Image Credit: Qantas Airways)

The economy cabin shows that the 1970s was certainly the decade that taste forgot.

Qantas Boeing 747 Economy Class Cabin, 1970s
Qantas Boeing 747 Economy Class Cabin, 1970s (Image Credit: Qantas Airways)

Qantas’ first Boeing 747 flight departed London Heathrow for Sydney via Bahrain and Singapore on Friday 26 November 1971. Flights initially operated twice weekly on Fridays and Sundays.

In March 1974, Qantas added a second one-stop service from London Heathrow to Perth via Mumbai with a journey time of around 20 hours.

Qantas, QF8 London Heathrow to Perth, March 1974
Qantas, QF8 London Heathrow to Perth, March 1974
Qantas, London Heathrow to Australia Services, March 1974
Qantas, London Heathrow to Australia Services, March 1974
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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.

Poster for Qantas Airways, 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 – Round The World By Jet” Boeing 707 Flights from London to Sydney via the US and Asia.
Poster for 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
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100 Years Of Qantas In The UK: The First Flights

How Qantas, Imperial Airways and BOAC pioneered the first scheduled passenger flights between the UK and Australia.

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Qantas Empire Airways Lockheed Constellation Aircraft VH-EAC, Sydney, 1947
Qantas Empire Airways Lockheed Constellation Aircraft VH-EAC, Sydney, 1947 (Image Credit: Qantas Airways)

On 16 November 2020, Qantas will mark 100 years since its incorporation as Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Ltd. It would soon become known as Q.A.N.T.A.S. and then Qantas.

It was many decades in to its existence before Qantas started flying to the UK in its own right. Together with BA’s predecessor airlines Imperial Airways and BOAC, it pioneered the first flights between the UK and Australia from the 1930s.

On 8 December 1934, the first UK to Australia mail service began operated by Imperial Airways (from Croydon to Karachi), Indian Trans-Continental (Karachi to Singapore) and Qantas Empire Airways, formed by Qantas and Imperial Airways, (Singapore to Brisbane).

The event was marked by a special ceremony at Croydon presided over by Lord Londonderry, Secretary of State for Air. Included in the two tons of letters were three addressed by the King, the Queen, and the Prince of Wales to the Duke of Gloucester at Auckland.

Imperial Airways Air Mail Services, December 1934
Imperial Airways Air Mail Services, December 1934

The next year, on 13 April 1935, the first passenger service operated from London to Brisbane by Imperial Airways and Qantas Empire Airways. It initially operated weekly and the trip took 12 and a half days. It would become officially known as the Kangaroo Route.

Services initially operated weekly, and were progressively increased to twice weekly and thrice weekly throughout the 1930s. The journey time was improved so that flights to Australia took “only” 10 days.

Imperial Airways Services To Australia, May 1936
Imperial Airways Services To Australia, May 1936
Imperial Airways Flying Boats, March 1937
Imperial Airways Flying Boats, March 1937
Imperial Airways Flying Boats, May 1939
Imperial Airways Flying Boats, May 1939

By 1939, services to Australia were operated with flying boats. Passengers would depart from the Imperial Airways Terminal in Victoria to catch a train to Southampton.

Imperial Airways / Qantas Empire Airways Poster
Imperial Airways / Qantas Empire Airways Poster (Image Credit: Qantas)
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Qantas Bids Farewell To The Boeing 747

Qantas is to retire its last Boeing 747 aircraft, nearly fifty years after it revolutionised travel between the UK and Australia.

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Qantas Boeing 747-238B "City Of Canberra"
Qantas Boeing 747-238B “City Of Canberra” (Image Credit: Qantas Airways)

2020 will be known for many things, but in the world of aviation it will be remembered for the year that brought an abrupt end to the Boeing 747.

At approximately 14:00 AEST on Wednesday 22 July 2020, a Qantas Boeing 747 VH-OEJ will depart Sydney for Los Angeles under flight number QF7474 as its last flight.

From Los Angeles, it complete a short hop to Mojave to join a number of Qantas Boeing 747s which have been in storage since the suspension of international flights.

It has been a long time since Qantas has operated scheduled international flights and even longer since Qantas Boeing 747s were seen at London Heathrow.

It’s no exaggeration to say the Boeing 747 fundamentally changed Qantas’ position in global aviation and how passengers travelled from Europe to Australia.

Qantas Before The Boeing 747

Before the Boeing 747 entered into service, Qantas was Australia’s self-styled “Round The World Airline”.

Qantas Boeing 707 Around The World Jet Services, 1959
Qantas Boeing 707 Around The World Jet Services, 1959

At its peak, with its fleet of Boeing 707 aircraft, Qantas offered no less than four different routings between the UK and Australia.

There was the “Kangaroo Route” which traced its origins to the 1930s. A typical routing with the Boeing 707 was London – Rome – Cairo – Karachi – Calcutta – Bangkok – Singapore – Darwin.

In 1959, Qantas also launched a westbound service to Sydney via New York, San Francisco, Honolulu and Fiji.

Five years later in 1964, Qantas added two additional routes. There was a relatively short-lived second westbound service to Sydney known as the “Fiesta route”. This called at Bermuda, Nassau, Mexico City, Acapulco, Tahiti and Fiji.

A second eastbound route called at either Athens or Istanbul, Tehran, New Delhi, Hong Kong (with the option of flying on to Tokyo) before reaching Australia.

The 747B

The 747 changed everything. It enabled passengers to reach Australia with just two stops en-route from London.

Qantas’ first Boeing 747 aircraft was the 747B. This had the same dimensions as the first variant of the 747, but with a longer range and higher maximum take-off weight.

It had capacity for 356 passengers, with the galleys located below the main deck. In common with other airlines, there was a dedicated “Captain Cook” lounge for First Class passengers on the Upper Deck.

Qantas Captain Cook Lounge, Boeing 747 Upper Deck 1971
Qantas Captain Cook Lounge, Boeing 747 Upper Deck 1971 (Image Credit: Qantas)

Qantas’ first Boeing 747 flight departed London Heathrow for Sydney via Bahrain and Singapore on Friday 26 November 1971. Flights initially operated twice weekly on Fridays and Sundays.

In March 1974, Qantas added a second one-stop service from London Heathrow to Perth via Mumbai with a journey time of around 20 hours.

Qantas, QF8 London Heathrow to Perth, March 1974
Qantas, QF8 London Heathrow to Perth, March 1974
Qantas, London Heathrow to Australia Services, March 1974
Qantas, London Heathrow to Australia Services, March 1974
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Qantas Suspends London Flights Until October 2020

Qantas has suspended all scheduled passenger flights from London to Australia until the end of October 2020 at the earliest.

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Qantas Boeing 787-9 Aircraft VH-OJA Pre Departure, London Heathrow Terminal 3, Thursday 14 November 2019
Qantas Boeing 787-9 Aircraft VH-OJA Pre Departure, London Heathrow Terminal 3, Thursday 14 November 2019 (Image Credit: Qantas Airways)

Qantas has suspended all scheduled passenger flights from London Heathrow to Australia until the end of October 2020 at the earliest.

Qantas does not expect to operate any scheduled international passenger flights, except for New Zealand, until the end of October.

This follows comments by the Australian Federal Government that it does not expect to reopen its borders to international travel until 2021.

Australia, and New Zealand, have been relatively successful at containing the outbreak of COVID-19.

However, after declaring no active cases of COVID-19, New Zealand now has three active cases, all from international air travellers returning to the country. Recently reported cases in the Australian state of Victoria are also due to returning international travellers.

This will make all countries extremely cautious about lifting travel restrictions, and requiring strict adherence to rules on quarantine for arriving passengers.

Qantas has operated special repatriation flights from London Heathrow to Perth. These were suspended in early June after the Australian Federal Government ended funding for these flights.

Qantas’ original plan following the outbreak of COVID-19 was to operate twice daily flights from London Heathrow to Melbourne and Sydney, via Perth non-stop, with Boeing 787-9 aircraft, with the latter replacing its daily Airbus A380 service to Sydney via Singapore. This is likely to be the case when Qantas eventually resumes flights from London.

For passengers with bookings, guidance on refunds and rebooking flights is available from Qantas.

Qantas Postpones Launch Of Non-Stop Sydney Flights

Qantas has postponed plans to order Airbus A350-1000 aircraft capable of flying non-stop from London to the East Coast of Australia.

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Qantas Airbus A350-1000 Aircraft CGI Image
Qantas Airbus A350-1000 Aircraft CGI Image (Image Credit: Airbus / Qantas)

Qantas has postponed indefinitely plans to order aircraft capable of flying from London Heathrow to Sydney non-stop.

Project Sunrise was the name given to one of the most hyped aircraft tenders by an airline in history.

After receiving bids from Airbus and Boeing Qantas had selected an ultra long-range variant of the Airbus A350-1000 as its preferred aircraft. Qantas was due to confirm its order with Airbus by the end of April 2020 to secure delivery of aircraft by 2023.

Qantas Project Sunrise
Qantas Project Sunrise (Image Credit: Qantas Airways)

This project has now been postponed indefinitely. That is not to say it won’t ultimately happen. Qantas viewed the ability to operate non-stop flights between Europe and Australia as a significant source of competitive advantage. Its rivals in Asia and the Middle East do not have the traffic rights and European airlines do not have the inclination to operate a small sub-fleet of ultra long-haul aircraft. Like all airlines, Qantas simply doesn’t know how long it will take for demand to recover and what restrictions will be remain on international travel.

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Qantas To Close London Heathrow Lounge

Qantas is to temporarily close all of its international lounges in Australia and worldwide.

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Qantas London Heathrow Lounge (Image Credit: Qantas Airways)

Qantas is to temporarily close its lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 3.

This follows a decision by Qantas to operate no scheduled international flights from the end of March until at least the end of May 2020 at the earliest.

Qantas will also close all of its international lounges around the world. This includes Qantas operated lounges in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Singapore and in Australia.

A number of Qantas domestic lounges in Australia will also close. Full details are on the Qantas website.

When Qantas does resume international flights, it plans to operate two services a day between London Heathrow and Perth with a Boeing 787 aircraft until the end of September at the earliest.

Given we are approaching a near complete shutdown of international travel from the end of March and disruption is likely to run for many months, this is all of course somewhat academic.

A number of other airlines and third party operators are closing lounges and those who have not yet announced closures are likely to do so.

American Express is closing its Centurion lounges worldwide from Saturday 21 March.

Plaza Premium has also closed, or reduced opening hours at, a number of lounges around the world. Full details are on its website.

It is also now plausible that some airports and terminals will close entirely.

Passengers travelling from London Heathrow Terminal 3 on Oneworld airlines in business and First Class, and eligible members of Oneworld frequent flyer programmes, can use the Cathay Pacific business and First Class lounges as an alternative.

Qantas Re-routes London Heathrow – Singapore – Sydney

Qantas’ daily service from London Heathrow to Sydney via Singapore will temporarily operate non-stop from London to Perth.

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Qantas Boeing 787-9 Aircraft VH-OJA Arrival, Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport, Friday 15 November 2019
Qantas Boeing 787-9 Aircraft VH-OJA Arrival, Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport, Friday 15 November 2019 (Image Credit: Qantas Airways)

Qantas has announced significant network wide changes as part of its response to the Coronavirus outbreak.

These apply to the entire international network of Qantas and its sister airline Jetstar until mid-September 2020.

The overall effect of these changes is to reduce the international flying of Qantas Group by a quarter over the next six months.

At London Heathrow, Qantas will continue to fly to Australia twice daily.

However, Qantas plans to ground 8 of its 14 Airbus A380 aircraft until mid-September. As 2 A380 aircraft are undergoing scheduled heavy maintenance, just 2 aircraft will continue to fly.

As such, Qantas will replace its service from Sydney to London Heathrow (Flights QF1 & QF2) with a Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

It will also be re-routed operating from Sydney to Perth and then non-stop from Perth to London Heathrow.

At the time of publication this is not reflected in Qantas’ online timetables. However, it will apply to Sydney – London from 20 April 2020. It should apply to London – Sydney a couple of days’ later.

This will operate in additional to Qantas existing non-stop service between London Heathrow and Perth (Flights QF9 & QF10), meaning that Qantas will fly non-stop from London Heathrow to Perth twice daily.

Whilst Qantas claims the non-stop service to Perth has been well received by passengers, this will disappoint those would prefer a stop-over in Singapore. There is also no First Class cabin on Qantas’ Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

In terms of the broader Qantas network, the most significant changes include Qantas suspending Melbourne – San Francisco and Brisbane – San Francisco from 18 April 2020. The launch of Brisbane – Chicago has also been postponed.

It is no exaggeration that the scope of breadth of the changes, whilst no doubt made sensibly, is unprecedented. A full summary is available from Qantas.

Qantas Selects Airbus A350 For Non-Stop Sydney Flights

Qantas has selected the Airbus A350-1000 aircraft for non-stop flights from London Heathrow to Eastern Australia. However, Qantas has yet to place a firm order for aircraft.

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Qantas Project Sunrise
Qantas Project Sunrise (Image Credit: Qantas Airways)

Qantas has announced it has selected the Airbus A350-1000 aircraft for non-stop “Project Sunrise” flights from London Heathrow to Sydney and other cities in Eastern Australia.

However, Qantas has yet to place a firm order for aircraft.

Following tenders from Airbus and Boeing for Airbus A350 and Boeing 777X aircraft respectively, Qantas selected the Airbus A350-1000 aircraft. The aircraft uses the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine. Qantas has advised that Airbus will add an additional fuel tank and slightly increase the maximum take-off weight of the aircraft.

Qantas has agreed with Airbus to extend the deadline to confirm delivery slots for aircraft up to March 2020.

Qantas has indicated that it will order up to 12 aircraft which will enter service from the first half of 2023, if Project Sunrise is ultimately given the go ahead by the Qantas Board.

CGI of Airbus A350-1000 aircraft in Qantas livery
CGI of Airbus A350-1000 aircraft in Qantas livery (Image Credit: Qantas)

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority in Australia has given Qantas provisional approval to operate ultra long-haul flights.

The last remaining issue appears to be the negotiation of an industrial agreement with the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA). There are still some differences between Qantas and the AIPA, particularly around productivity and efficiency.

Qantas has confirmed that the fleet of ultra long-haul aircraft will feature newly designed First, Business, Premium Economy and Economy cabins.

Qantas has also previously indicated that potential ultra long-haul routes from London include Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Qantas has slots at Heathrow to operate four long-haul services a day, two of which are currently leased to BA.

Other potential ultra long-haul routes cited by Qantas include Sydney to Cape Town, New York and Rio de Janeiro.

Qantas Opens New Singapore First Class Lounge

Qantas has opened its new First Class lounge in Terminal 1 of Singapore Changi airport.

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Qantas First Lounge Singapore
Qantas First Lounge Singapore (Image Credit: Qantas)

Qantas has officially opened its new First Class lounge at Singapore Changi airport.

Designed by Australian designer David Caon and Akin Atelier the lounge has capacity for 240 passengers.

Facilities include a la carte dining, an open kitchen and a cocktail bar. There are also 10 private shower suites with lighting through a faux sky light.

The lounge menus are designed by Neil Perry with whom Qantas has a long-standing partnership, and a sample menu can be viewed here.

Qantas has in recent years opened joint business and First Class lounges outside of Australia. However, there has been a need for increased lounge capacity in Singapore after Qantas reinstated Airbus A380 services from Sydney to London via Singapore.

Whilst Qantas’ global lounge portfolio is relatively small, when it does operate a lounge it does do it extremely well. This lounge looks particularly impressive with effective use of different materials to break up the lounge.

The lounge can be accessed by all passengers of Oneworld airlines flying First Class and Emerald members of Oneworld frequent flyer programmes. This includes BA passengers flying First Class to London Heathrow and Sydney and BA Executive Club Gold cardholders flying on Oneworld airlines.

The lounge is open from 14:30 to 00:00 daily. Note the lounge is located away from the current Qantas business class lounge

Qantas First Lounge Singapore
Qantas First Lounge Singapore (Image Credit: Qantas)
Qantas First Lounge Singapore
Qantas First Lounge Singapore (Image Credit: Qantas)
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