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Be honest, who knew that Qantas stands for Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services? Better known as “The Flying Kangaroo,” the airline with the iconic stylized marsupial on its tail yesterday marked 100 years since it was founded in the Australian outback, setting it on a path to become the world’s longest continuously operating airline.

On Nov. 16, 1920, two veterans of the Australian Flying Corps, Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness, together with local grazier Fergus McMaster, founded what would later become Australia’s national carrier, which fortunately goes by its easier-on-the mouth acronym today.

For context, the airline achieved lift-off just 17 years after the first powered flight by the Wright Brothers, two years after the end of the First World War, and at the tail end of the last major global pandemic, the Spanish Flu.

The new airline’s mission was to conquer the “tyranny of distance,” which was considered a major barrier to the growth of modern Australia – such that the venture’s early chances of success were so uncertain that early backers called their investment “a donation.”

Initially carrying mail between outback towns, the airline was flying passengers to Singapore by the 1930s. By the end of the 1940s its strategic importance saw it nationalized and in the 1960s it was an early adopter of the jet aircraft that mainstreamed global travel. Qantas invented business class in the 1970s, switched to an all-747 fleet in the 1980s, was privatized in the 1990s, founded Jetstar in 2004, went through major restructuring in 2014 and, by 2020, had recently completed several important “firsts” in non-stop travel to Europe and the US, and, pre-COVID, was working on non-stop flights from Australia’s east coast to New York and London – “the last frontier of global aviation.”

Today, Qantas is the only airline in the world that (normally) flies to every single inhabited continent on earth.

Planned centenary celebrations were significantly scaled back due to the impact of COVID-19 – but Qantas still marked the occasion with a low-level flyover of Sydney Harbour, past Rose Bay where its Empire Flying Boats took off for Singapore between 1938 and 1942, on the evening of its anniversary.

“We want to use this moment to say thank you to all those who have supported Qantas over the years. And, in particular, to the many people who have dedicated some or all of their careers to this great company,” said Qantas chairman Richard Goyder.”

Qantas Group CEO, Alan Joyce, added: “Around the world, Qantas is probably best known for its safety record, endurance flying, and long list of aviation firsts. But for Australians, there’s nothing quite like seeing the flying kangaroo at the airport, waiting to take you home. We hope to be doing a lot more of that in the months and years ahead.”

Check out this video:

First published at Travel Industry Today

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