Alex McWhirter looks back at the launch of the carrier’s Sydney-London service, which marks its 70th anniversary this year.
It’s generally believed that the “Kangaroo Route” refers to the many air services linking Europe with Australia via South East Asia. But, in truth, the term is a Qantas trademark. It applies only to Qantas services linking the UK with Australia via the Eastern Hemisphere.
Qantas began flying Sydney-London via the Kangaroo Route in December 1947 using a Lockheed Constellation. There were 29 passengers and 11 crew and the flight called at Darwin, Singapore, Calcutta, Karachi, Cairo and Tripoli. Overnight stops were made in Singapore and Cairo.
Over the years, flights became faster, passenger numbers increased and the route was shared with BOAC, later to become British Airways. Today, the route has changed beyond all recognition. The past few decades have seen a big rise in airlines based in the Gulf and Asia. These indirect carriers now dominate the market, with many dozens of daily services to numerous cities Down Under, while Qantas and BA services are reduced to a total of three one-stop flights daily from London to Sydney and Melbourne.
Now Qantas plans to regain some of its lost Kangaroo Route prestige. It will inaugurate a Perth-London nonstop service in March next year using the B787 Dreamliner – a far cry from the noisy and slow Constellation of 1947.