The world’s oldest airline? In 2019, British Airways claimed the title, but that was based on the founding date of one of the carriers that later became part of Imperial Airways, a predecessor to BA. KLM has retained the same identity since 1919, but stopped flying during the Second World War. So the oldest airline in continuous operation is Qantas, with many stories to tell along the way.
The first air race between the UK and Australia took place in 1919. Two First World War aviators, Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness, played a small role by surveying a route across northern Australia in a Model T Ford car.
In the aftermath of the last global pandemic, Spanish flu, they decided that an air service for the Outback could succeed, and started an airline the following year.
One hundred years on, Qantas is grounded internationally because of the coronavirus pandemic. But it is still flying domestically.
1920 (16 November): Getting started
Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness founded Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Ltd along with a syndicate of local graziers headed by Fergus McMaster, who becomes chairman.
The hub is the town of Winton, and the first routes are in western Queensland.
1921: Moving home
1927: Tragic event
The first fatal accident involving a Qantas aircraft takes place at the small town of Tambo. The only occupant, the pilot, is killed when the plane stalls.
1928: Medical missions
Qantas begins Australia’s first Flying Doctor service, based in Cloncurry, Queensland.
1930: City move
Qantas moves its its head office to Brisbane. The city will later become the HQ of its rival Virgin Australia.
1935 (20 April): Going international