Grounded by the pandemic, Qantas marks its 100-year history

In the midst of one of its most challenging years, Qantas is marking its centenary as the nation’s original airline, while Virgin is looking ahead with a new owner

Celebrating its centenary, Qantas has marked 100 years since it was founded as the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services in the Australian outback. It comes in a year when the iconic airline has been grounded because of the global coronavirus pandemic.  

Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness, two veterans of the Australian Flying Corps, together with local grazier Fergus McMaster, founded what would later become the national carrier on 16 November 1920.
Coming just 17 years after the first powered flight by the Wright Brothers, Qantas came to life two years after the end of World War One and at the tail end of the last major global pandemic, the Spanish Flu.

The new airline was focused on conquering the “tyranny of distance” that was a major barrier to the growth of modern Australia. Marking the occasion, Qantas said in a statement the early chances of success were uncertain, to the point early backers called their investment a “donation”.

“The history of Qantas shows it’s no stranger to a challenge or a crisis. That’s often when its role as the national carrier has really come to the fore,” said Qantas chairman, Richard Goyder.

“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."

 
Recounting its history, the company said it started with carrying mail between outback towns, was flying passengers to Singapore by the 1930s, and by the end of the 1940s its strategic importance saw it nationalised.
In the 1960s it was an early adopter of the jet aircraft that mainstreamed global travel, invented business class in the 1970s, switched to an all-747 fleet in the 1980s and was privatised in the 1990s.

Jetstar was founded in 2004, then Qantas went through major restructuring in 2014 and, by 2020, had recently completed several important ‘firsts’ in non-stop travel to Europe and the US.

Qantas is the oldest continuously-operating airline in the world and the only one that (normally) flies to every single inhabited continent on earth. Planned centenary celebrations have been significantly scaled back due to the impact of COVID, but Qantas will still mark the occasion with a low-level flyover of Sydney Harbour on the evening of its anniversary. The flight path is expected to pass near Rose Bay where our Empire Flying Boats took off for Singapore between 1938 and 1942.

Qantas Group CEO, Alan Joyce, said that 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,” he said.

At the same time, Virgin has released its new campaign ‘you can’t keep a good thing down’ after also being impacted by the global downturn brought on by the pandemic. The airline was recently sold to Bain Capital and this is the first integrated campaign, a collaborative effort between Virgin Australia, Velocity Frequent Flyer and CHE Proximity, ahead of the official changeover on 17 November.

Virgin Australia GM brand and marketing, Michael Nearhos, said the theme of the campaign is about bringing to life the excitement of flying with Virgin Australia again.

“As state and territory borders safely reopen and more Australians consider traveling, we wanted to show them how they’ll feel to finally enter the airport again to go on that holiday they’ve been dreaming of, to conduct business or to reunite with family and friends, and this campaign certainly captures that,” said Nearhos.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia.


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