Celebrating 75 years of Kangaroo Route: Qantas services to London

75 years ago, Qantas launched its own iconic route, now one of the most important air journeys in the world: the Kangaroo Route. Connecting Sydney, Australia and London, United Kingdom (UK), the journey initially took several hops – hence the name – to reach its destination airport. At that time, even the most modern equipment still lacked sufficient range for long-haul flights with direct or one-stop flights between the two cities.

While the planes have changed, the importance of the route remains, as it has connected the two CIS countries over the years.

Jumping and skipping

Qantas officially launched the Kangaroo Route on December 1, 1947, when a plane wearing the airline’s minimalist livery began to hop and skip across several cities across Asia and Europe to reach London.

The four-engine plane, specifically a Lockheed L-749 Constellation, flew for five days between Sydney and London, stopping in more than a few cities: Darwin, Australia, Singapore, Calcutta, India, Karachi, Pakistan, Cairo, Egypt, Castel Benito, Libya, Rome, Italy, before finally touching down in the British capital.

However, before Qantas offered a tailor-made trip to London, it also partnered with other airlines to connect the two points on the map. During the 1930s, a flight from Sydney to London would take twelve days, with Qantas, in partnership with Imperial Airways – the predecessor of British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) – flying a De Havilland 86 to Singapore. The DH86 passengers will then board an Imperial Airways plane to London Heathrow Airport (LHR).

According to a Qantas fact sheet, the flight was crewed by three pilots, one navigator, a single radio operator, two flight engineers and three cabin crew, serving a maximum of 29 passengers on board. Tickets will set customers back up to £525 ($645). Although the amount may not seem too much, adjusted for inflation (at 2018 levels), the price of the ticket was $35,000.

However, as technology continued to develop, the number of stops was reduced, initially with the arrival of the Super Constellation, an upgraded version of the L-749.

The dawn of the jet age allowed Qantas to continue cutting cities out of the kangaroo route, minimizing the hops required to get to LHR. While the Australian carrier had a de Havilland Comet in its fleet, the Boeing 707 was the first aircraft to fly to London on October 27, 1959, cutting travel time “to 33 hours from about 63 hours” when the aircraft was in use. constellations.

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In addition, the 707 caused a change in the route itself, because with fewer stops and more reliable power, it was necessary to adjust where the spare engines were placed.

“With the Constellations piston engines, Qantas has ensured that there is access to one spare engine at each stopover port en route, either one of the company’s own engines or one borrowed from another carrier.

Following this precedent, three Pratt & Whitney engines were placed in three major ports outside Australia. These were retired after one year, when none of them were in use,” according to the airline’s history of the airliner and jetliner.

Changes in rotation

The aircraft manufacturers continued to push boundaries and in the seventies of the last century they saw a kind of royalty that arrived on the scene, namely the Boeing 747 or the Queen of the Sky. The wide-body plane shrunk the world, metaphorically, and allowed more people than ever to travel as companies were able to lower the price of airline tickets even further.

Qantas’ first Boeing 747 operating on the Sydney to London route took off in November 1971. By the end of the decade, according to the company’s own historical fact sheet, it was the only airline in the world to operate a 747-only fleet. The Kangaroo Route now included only one stop: Singapore.

As Boeing continued to improve the ‘Queen’, the arrival of the 747-400 in the Australian airline’s fleet meant a record was about to be broken. In 1989 the airline flew the first direct flight between London and Sydney. The Boeing 747-400, registered as VH-OJA, was flying a shuttle flight from LHR to SYD. The 20-hour flight was not a regular passenger service and was only a demonstration flight that required a special fuel mixture, improving the efficiency of the four engines by up to 4%. However, Qantas continued one-stop services on QF1, the official Kangaroo route flight number (QF2 is the return service to Sydney).

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No Stop: The Sunrise Project

A few decades later, the presence of aircraft in the sky has completely changed compared to when Qantas first flew the Boeing 747 one-stop to London. Both Airbus and Boeing introduced aircraft that would theoretically be able to fly directly between the two cities, namely the A350 and the 787 Dreamliner.

However, the kangaroo track itself has also evolved. Singapore has been a key component of the route between SYD and LHR since the Australian carrier inaugurated the route, but partnered with Emirates in 2013. On 13 March 2013, Qantas began calling at Dubai International Airport (DXB) rather than Singapore Changi Airport (SIN), marks the end of SIN’s long-standing role in Roo hops. However, the Australian airline will eventually return to SIN.

In August 2017, it announced that it was renewing its partnership with Emirates, while making changes to the airlines’ joint network. The Airbus A380 will now operate the Kangaroo route for a short period. Most importantly, Qantas has also rerouted its Melbourne-Dubai-London services, replacing the station in the Middle Eastern city with a station in Perth. Once this service has started, it will be given the title of Kangaroo Road.

On March 24, 2018, a direct connection between the two countries was opened. The plane for the flight was the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Announcing the Perth-London flight, Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas, said: “We said the Qantas Dreamliner was a game changer, and today it becomes real,” he added, “It’s a level of comfort that Australians have never had before.” , noting that the route “continued to change with new technology”.

Just one year later, as Qantas celebrated its centenary, the airline reiterated its intention to operate non-stop research flights from Sydney to London and New York. The project – first announced in August 2017 and dubbed Project Sunrise – will use a repurposed Boeing 787 to fly direct between SYD and LHR.

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The flight carried 52 passengers on a 19-hour flight between the two cities, as well as an earlier flight to New York. The COVID-19 outbreak halted all international travel and ultimately delayed plans to launch the route until at least 2025, but before then, Qantas tentatively approached Airbus to build a plane for the long-haul flights, namely the Airbus A350-1000.

“The A350 is a fantastic aircraft and the deal on the table with Airbus gives us the best possible combination of commercial terms, fuel efficiency, operating cost and customer experience,” Joyce said in December 2019. He added: “Can I thank both Airbus and Boeing for the tremendous effort they put into Project Zariha. It was a difficult choice between two highly capable aircraft, made even more difficult by innovation from both manufacturers to enhance what they had already spent years designing.”

The order was completed in May 2022.

In this case, however, the pandemic has forced Qantas to make changes to the Kangaroo route. Instead of flying via Singapore or directly from Perth, the journey will now make one stop in Darwin, Australia. In October 2021, once borders began to reopen around the world and international travel resumed, the airline said that from November 14, 2021 until at least April 2022, it would fly the Sydney-Darwin-London route. The reason for this trip was that Western Australia remained closed to travel, prohibiting Qantas from stopping at Perth Airport (PER). In February 2022, Qantas indicated that it would continue to fly through Darwin International Airport (DRW) until June 2022.

In May 2022, earlier than expected due to reopened borders in Western Australia, Kants again flies direct from PER to LHR.

June 2022, however, brought even more direct routes to the airline’s network. Cruises to London have been joined by flights to Rome, Italy, Johannesburg, South Africa and Jakarta, Indonesia, following COVID-19, “passenger preference for point-to-point travel is higher than ever,” according to Qantas.



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