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Qantas: Passenger flight in Australia

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The idea of passengers flying between cities in Australia was imagined in the nineteenth century, but the first paying passenger to make a flight in Australia was Melbourne businessman M.H. Baillieu, who was taken on a 19 kilometre circular journey by aviator Joseph Hammond on 2 March 1911.


After the First World War, flight became more commonplace across Australia. Civil aviation really began in 1920, when the Commonwealth Government passed the Air Navigation Act and called for tenders from flight operators to undertake mail runs on particular routes. These first mail routes included Sydney-Brisbane, Charleville-Cloncurry and Geraldton-Derby.

Many of the airlines which later became Australia's foremost passenger airlines grew out of the companies which were awarded these first tenders. As a sideline to carrying the post, these first airlines began carrying paying customers. Australia's biggest international airline, Qantas, began this way on the Charleville-Cloncurry route.

Hood Collection part II : [Aviation]
ca. 1911-ca. 1945
Hood, Sam, 1872-1953
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Digital ID: 
a169108
Hood Collection part II : [Aviation]
ca. 1911-ca. 1945
Hood, Sam, 1872-1953
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Digital ID: 
a169024
Charles T.P. Ulm collection of historical aviation photographs, ca. 1920-1934
chiefly ca. 1920-1934
Ulm, C.T.P. (Charles Thomas Phillippe), 1898-1934
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Digital ID: 
a1269002
Hood Collection part II : [Aviation]
ca. 1911-ca. 1945
Hood, Sam, 1872-1953
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Digital ID: 
a169087

Qantas: Australia's international airline

Qantas (Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services) was established in Queensland in 1920 by aviators W. Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness, with the financial backing of wealthy graziers.

The company’s first headquarters was in Longreach. The first commercial flights were mail runs between Charleville and Cloncurry in Queensland. During the 1920s, more and more destinations were added to the Qantas routes and in 1929 flights to Brisbane began.

As well as delivering the post, these flights took paying passengers from one town to another. Outback Australians were quick to appreciate the way that planes could cover vast distances in much shorter times than traditional methods of travel and passenger flights became increasingly popular. Qantas moved its headquarters to Brisbane in 1930 and soon afterwards teamed up with British Imperial Airways (later BOAC) to run the Brisbane-Darwin leg of a trial aerial mail link from Australia to England. 

In 1934, Qantas changed its name to Qantas Empire Airways Limited to reflect its new international focus and the next year took over the Brisbane-Singapore mail route. The same year (1935) was the first time that a paying passenger flew overseas. International flights from Australia became increasing popular.


By 1937, Qantas Empire Airways was running a flying boat airmail and passenger service from Sydney to Southampton. Passenger and airmail flights continued throughout the Second World War, with some alterations and restrictions.

After the interruption of the Second World War, Qantas offered international travellers in the mid-twentieth century a glamorous, luxurious and fast alternative to weeks at sea. New aircraft meant faster flying times and by 1947, the Kangaroo Route from Sydney to London took just 4 days.

Not only were more Australians venturing overseas, but the short travel time meant that Australia was a real option for wealthy Europeans looking for an exotic holiday destination.

Increasing numbers of first time international flyers meant that Qantas needed to produce publications which explained the basics - the routes, what to pack, menus and entertainment options on board. For many mid-century travellers, a flight was an expensive once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Queensland beginnings

Qantas was founded in Queensland by former Australian Flying Corps members, W. Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness. In 1919, they identified a need in the remote areas of outback Queensland and Northern Territory for a fast and reliable mail and delivery service. Distances like these, they reasoned, could only be effectively covered by plane. With the financial backing of grazier, Fergus McMaster, Fysh and McGinness registered their new company in 1920. With McMaster as chairman, Queensland and Northern Territory Air Services Limited, or QANTAS, was based in Winton, Queensland.  In 1922, the Qantas began a scheduled mail route between Charleville and Cloncurry. The first flight on this route also saw the first passenger on a scheduled flight. He was adventurous 82-year-old Alexander Kennedy, who flew from Longreach to Cloncurry, receiving passenger ticket no. 1.

The brochure below is from 1929, the year Qantas moved its headquarters to Brisbane. It details the timetable of scheduled flights on the Brisbane - Normanton air route as well as prices, how to book, and what to expect from your flight.

Time table and general information for the Brisbane-Camooweal-Normanton air route : air transport and travel at 100 miles per hour / The Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited.
[S.I.] : Qantas, [1929].
Digital ID: 
a2354001
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Time table and general information for the Brisbane-Camooweal-Normanton air route : air transport and travel at 100 miles per hour / The Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited.
[S.I.] : Qantas, [1929].
Digital ID: 
a2354002
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Time table and general information for the Brisbane-Camooweal-Normanton air route : air transport and travel at 100 miles per hour / The Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited.
[S.I.] : Qantas, [1929].
Digital ID: 
a2354003
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Time table and general information for the Brisbane-Camooweal-Normanton air route : air transport and travel at 100 miles per hour / The Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited.
[S.I.] : Qantas, [1929].
Digital ID: 
a2354004
View collection item detail
Time table and general information for the Brisbane-Camooweal-Normanton air route : air transport and travel at 100 miles per hour / The Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited.
[S.I.] : Qantas, [1929].
Digital ID: 
a2354005
View collection item detail
Time table and general information for the Brisbane-Camooweal-Normanton air route : air transport and travel at 100 miles per hour / The Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited.
[S.I.] : Qantas, [1929].
Digital ID: 
a2354006
View collection item detail
Time table and general information for the Brisbane-Camooweal-Normanton air route : air transport and travel at 100 miles per hour / The Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited.
[S.I.] : Qantas, [1929].
Digital ID: 
a2354007
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Time table and general information for the Brisbane-Camooweal-Normanton air route : air transport and travel at 100 miles per hour / The Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited.
Digital ID: 
a2354008
View collection item detail
Time table and general information for the Brisbane-Camooweal-Normanton air route : air transport and travel at 100 miles per hour / The Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited.
[S.I.] : Qantas, [1929].
Digital ID: 
a2354009
View collection item detail
Time table and general information for the Brisbane-Camooweal-Normanton air route : air transport and travel at 100 miles per hour / The Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited.
[S.I.] : Qantas, [1929].
Digital ID: 
a235401
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Wartime flights

By the start of World War II in 1939, Qantas (in conjunction with British Imperial Airways) had been operating an international flying boat service to Southampton for over a year. With the outbreak of war in the Pacific in 1942, the flying boats and Qantas crew were recalled from civil duties and pressed into wartime service. Unarmed Qantas flying boats were used for delivering supplies to troops. 

In 1943, Qantas and B.O.A.C. (British Overseas Airways Corporation, formerly Imperial Airways) recommenced the Australia - UK route, via Perth in Western Australia. This dangerous route was used to transport military and government personnel and, more importantly, diplomatic and military mail to various Allied overseas locations including India and Ceylon. The aircraft used on the Indian Ocean route included Catalinas and Liberators.

The brochure below dates from around 1943-45. It explains the flight to wartime passengers, including how to recognise the ranks of the Qantas crew.

General flight information for the Indian Ocean crossing / Qantas Empire Airways.
Sydney, N.S.W. : Qantas Empire Airways, [194-].
Digital ID: 
a2351001
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General flight information for the Indian Ocean crossing / Qantas Empire Airways.
Sydney, N.S.W. : Qantas Empire Airways, [194-].
Digital ID: 
a2351002
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Travelling to Australia

In 1947 Qantas began its famous 'Kangaroo Route' from Sydney to London. Running three times per week, this regular passenger service enabled many more people to travel between England and Australia quickly and comfortably.

The Australian government became the major shareholder in Qantas in 1947 and was able to use the airline's publicity to promote the post-war Australian immigration boom. The brochure below encourages Britons to visit Australia and offers information for those considering moving here permanently.  

Fly to Australia on leave / Qantas Empire Airways.
Sydney, N.S.W. : Qantas Empire Airways, [1939?].
Digital ID: 
a2346001
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Fly to Australia on leave / Qantas Empire Airways.
Sydney, N.S.W. : Qantas Empire Airways, [1939?].
Digital ID: 
a2346002
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Fly to Australia on leave / Qantas Empire Airways.
Sydney, N.S.W. : Qantas Empire Airways, [1939?].
Digital ID: 
a2346003
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Fly to Australia on leave / Qantas Empire Airways.
Sydney, N.S.W. : Qantas Empire Airways, [1939?].
Digital ID: 
a2346004
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Fly to Australia on leave / Qantas Empire Airways.
Sydney, N.S.W. : Qantas Empire Airways, [1939?].
Digital ID: 
a2346005
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Fly to Australia on leave / Qantas Empire Airways.
Sydney, N.S.W. : Qantas Empire Airways, [1939?].
Digital ID: 
a2346006
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Fly to Australia on leave / Qantas Empire Airways.
Sydney, N.S.W. : Qantas Empire Airways, [1939?]
Digital ID: 
a2346007
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Fly to Australia on leave / Qantas Empire Airways.
Sydney, N.S.W. : Qantas Empire Airways, [1939?].
Digital ID: 
a2346008
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Fly to Australia on leave / Qantas Empire Airways.
Sydney, N.S.W. : Qantas Empire Airways, [1939?].
Digital ID: 
a2346009
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Fly to Australia on leave / Qantas Empire Airways.
Sydney, N.S.W. : Qantas Empire Airways, [1939?].
Digital ID: 
a2346010
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Fly to Australia on leave / Qantas Empire Airways.
Sydney, N.S.W. : Qantas Empire Airways, [1939?].
Digital ID: 
a2346011
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Fly to Australia on leave / Qantas Empire Airways.
Sydney, N.S.W. : Qantas Empire Airways, [1939?].
Digital ID: 
a2346012
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Fly to Australia on leave / Qantas Empire Airways.
Sydney, N.S.W. : Qantas Empire Airways, [1939?].
Digital ID: 
a2346013
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Fly to Australia on leave / Qantas Empire Airways.
Sydney, N.S.W. : Qantas Empire Airways, [1939?].
Digital ID: 
a2346014
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Fly to Australia on leave / Qantas Empire Airways.
Sydney, N.S.W. : Qantas Empire Airways, [1939?].
Digital ID: 
a2346015
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Fly to Australia on leave / Qantas Empire Airways.
Sydney, N.S.W. : Qantas Empire Airways, [1939?].
Digital ID: 
a2346016
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Qantas printed ephemera

From its earliest days, Qantas has produced printed material such as brochures, pamphlets, leaflets, menus etc to promote and advertise its services, as well as to inform passengers of what to expect on their flight. This type of paper material, produced to be widely distributed and then discarded, is called ephemera. The State Library of New South Wales has a large collection of ephemera relating to Qantas, dating from the 1920s to the present.

The selection below dates from the 1930s to the 1960s.

Qantas Empire Airways, Sydney.
Sydney, N.S.W. : Qantas, [193-?].
Digital ID: 
a2099001
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Qantas Empire Airways, Sydney.
Sydney, N.S.W. : Qantas, [193-?].
Digital ID: 
a2099002
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Spotlight on baggage : what to take on your air journey / Qantas Empire Airways.
Sydney, N.S.W. : Qantas Empire Airways, [19--]
Digital ID: 
a2343001
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Spotlight on baggage : what to take on your air journey / Qantas Empire Airways.
Sydney, N.S.W. : Qantas Empire Airways, [19--].
Digital ID: 
a2343002
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Spotlight on baggage : what to take on your air journey / Qantas Empire Airways.
Sydney, N.S.W. : Qantas Empire Airways, [19--].
Digital ID: 
a2343006
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Menu / Qantas, Australia's around the world airline
Digital ID: 
a2347006
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Menu / Qantas, Australia's around the world airline
Digital ID: 
a2347001
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King Neptune [picture] : order of equatorial air voyagers
Digital ID: 
a2348003
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King Neptune [picture] : order of equatorial air voyagers
Digital ID: 
a2348005
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King Neptune [picture] : order of equatorial air voyagers
Digital ID: 
a2348002
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King Neptune [picture] : order of equatorial air voyagers
Digital ID: 
a2348001
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Qantas : special facilities for students & school children
Digital ID: 
a2097001
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Your flight souvenir / Qantas Empire Airways in association with British Overseas Airways Corporation
Digital ID: 
a2356001
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Qantas presents : the womens angle on overseas air travel / Qantas Empire Airways.
[Sydney, N.S.W.] : Qantas, [195-].
Digital ID: 
a2340001
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See the continent on your way to Britain / Qantas and B.O.A.C.
Digital ID: 
a2355001
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See the continent on your way to Britain / Qantas and B.O.A.C.
Digital ID: 
a2355002
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Aviation in Australia is made possible through a partnership with Qantas.