Brisbane | Published on 17th April 2015 at 14:41

Qantas today celebrates 80 years of operating international flights in what is already a landmark year for the Qantas International business.

On April 17 1935 Qantas operated Australia’s first international passenger flight from Brisbane to Singapore, carrying two paying customers on a DH86 aircraft. Eight decades later Qantas passengers enjoy an international network that services every continent, spanning a network of more than 250 destinations in over 60 countries.

Qantas Group Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce said Qantas had helped shape the global aviation industry, driving higher standards in safety, technology, product and service.

“Qantas has led many innovations that have seen air travel become safer, more comfortable and more efficient than ever before,” Mr Joyce said.

“We have seen journeys that used to take three and half days shrink to less than eight hours and aircraft go from carrying a handful of passengers to 300.

“Over the past eight decades, Qantas has invented business class travel, operated the first dual hemisphere round the world service and flown the longest non-stop commercial route with the world’s largest aircraft.

“Today Qantas International is strong, profitable and positioned for growth. It is earning its highest customer satisfaction levels on record; achieving greater efficiency through smarter fleet utilisation; and strengthening its partnerships with airlines in key markets.

“The global reputation for excellence that Qantas has today is a tribute to the hard work of tens of thousands of Qantas employees over eight decades, from pilots, cabin crew and ground handlers to engineers, sales people and corporate managers.

“Our people built Qantas international into the iconic, global airline it is today.  And it’s our people who are taking Qantas forward into the future,” added Mr Joyce.

To mark the 80th anniversary of Qantas’ inaugural international flight, customers travelling on today’s QF51 from Brisbane to Singapore were greeted with a Merlion dance and celebratory balloons and cakes at the departure gate. A special decal has been fitted to the A330 that will operate the flight.

As the world’s oldest continually operating airline Qantas will this year celebrate its 95th birthday, marking the start of domestic flights in Australia 15 years before it started flying internationally.

Qantas International then and now:


  • At the time of Qantas’ first international service Qantas had 5 DH86 aircraft that were capable of flying internationally.
  • Qantas charged 117 pounds, (roughly $3200 in today’s terms) for its first international service.
  • Qantas’ first international flight from Brisbane to Singapore had the capability to carry five passengers.
  • Qantas’s first international service from Brisbane to Singapore took three and a half days with overnight stops at Cloncurry, Darwin and Rambang.
  • No cabin crew were carried on the first international services operated by the DH86 aircraft. The First Officer handed out drinks and sandwiches prepared on the ground although the passengers usually chose to eat meals at one of the many fuel and overnight rest stops along the way.
  • Qantas’ first flight carried only two paying commercial passengers, a major in the Queen’s Coldstream Guards and Lady Mountbatten, a glamourous aristocrat who went on to become the last Vicereine of British India.


  • The Qantas International fleet now includes 34 aircraft, including 12 A380s, 12 B747s and 10 A330s.
  • A return airfare between Brisbane and Singapore today starts from approximately $1054. International fares have dropped by up to 30% over the past 10 years.
  • Qantas flights from Brisbane to Singapore carry approximately 300 passengers (60 times more people than Qantas’ first international flight was capable of carrying).
  • Qantas’ Brisbane-Singapore service is now a non-stop service that takes less than eight hours.
  • Qantas international flights now provide restaurant style experiences in the sky with multiple courses.
  • Qantas remains popular with celebrities, with recent high profile customers including Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift to the Dalai Lama, Prince William and The Duchess of Cambridge.
  • Today Qantas passengers enjoy an international network that services every continent, spanning a network of more than 250 destinations in over 60 countries.

Qantas International Milestones:

  • 17 April 1935 – First Qantas international passenger flight arrived in Singapore from Brisbane. Qantas operated DH86 aircraft to and from Singapore where passengers connected with Imperial Airways flights to India, the Middle East and Europe.
  • 4 August 1938 – Inaugural Empire flying boat service from Rose Bay, Sydney to Singapore. Rose Bay becomes Sydney’s first international airport.
  • 10 July 1943 – The first ‘Double Sunrise’ Catalina flight departs Perth for Ceylon (Sri Lanka). This remains the longest scheduled passenger service in the world by elapsed time. It was also the longest non-stop flight by distance at the time and the only regular wartime air link to Australia.
  • 17 June 1944 – Qantas begins flying Liberator aircraft between Perth and Ceylon. This new ‘Kangaroo Service’ was the first use of the iconic kangaroo logo on a Qantas aircraft.
  • 1 December 1947 – First all-Qantas Kangaroo Route service from Sydney to London with the Lockheed Constellation.
  • 29 June 1949 – Qantas services between Hong Kong and Sydney commence using DC4 aircraft.
  • 1 September 1952 – Inaugural Qantas service to Johannesburg, South Africa via Indian Ocean.
  • 15 May 1954 – First Qantas Trans-Pacific service from Sydney to San Francisco and Vancouver via Fiji and Hawaii using Super Constellation aircraft.
  • 14-20 January 1958 – Qantas began the first scheduled round-the-world service via both hemispheres with Super Constellations.
  • 29 July 1959 – First Qantas Boeing 707 jet service departed Sydney for San Francisco via Fiji and Hawaii. This was also the first Trans-Pacific jet service.
  • 3 October 1961 – First Qantas service to New Zealand using Lockheed Electra aircraft.
  • 17 September 1971 – Qantas Boeing 747 services begin on the Kangaroo Route to London via Singapore. By the late 1970s Qantas operated an all-747 fleet.
  • September 1979 – Qantas is the first airline to introduce Business Class travel.
  • 16-17 August 1989 – The first Qantas Boeing 747-400 arrives in Australia after a record-breaking non-stop flight from London to Sydney.
  • 24 October 2008 – First Qantas A380 service from Melbourne to Los Angeles.
  • 16 May 2011 – Qantas services from Sydney to Dallas begin. This is now the longest non-stop scheduled air route in the world.
  • 26 March 2012 – Inaugural Qantas service to Santiago, Chile.
  • 31 March 2013 – Qantas-Emirates partnership begins with Kangaroo Route service via Dubai.