Australian airline Qantas is celebrating its 100th anniversary on November 16, a rare piece of upbeat news for an aviation industry hobbled by the coronavirus pandemic.
The airline began life as the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services, which was abbreviated to QANTAS, on – as you may have figured out – November 16, 1920.
The three founders, Hudson Fysh, Paul McGinness and Fergus McMaster, believed that the then-nascent business of air travel might be the way to connect various far-flung outposts in the rural regions of Australia.
Its first aircraft was an Avro 504, a pre-World War I biplane that could seat a pilot and one passenger.
Originally, small planes delivered mail and freight between rural Outback towns, but the airline evolved along with the country and Qantas (this time in lowercase) became Australia’s national carrier in 1959. Its first international flight route was to Singapore in 1935.
Its kangaroo livery first appeared in 1944 and accompanied the airline during the airline’s expansion throughout the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.
“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,” the airline’s CEO, Alan Joyce, said in a press statement.
Amid the pandemic, Qantas operated many of the “relief flights” that brought Australian citizens back from remote corners of the world.
It isn’t only Qantas’ name that has changed over the past century. The airline is credited with inventing business class and, in a non-Covid year, it’s the only carrier that flies to all seven continents.
Like many other airlines around the world, Qantas has been hit hard by the decline in travel amid the pandemic. It has responded by launching a “flight to nowhere” where passengers spend seven hours flying in a loop across the continent, passing over sites like the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru.
While big plans for the airline’s centennial were scaled back due to local virus control methods, Qantas did operate a scenic flight over Sydney Harbor to celebrate the big day.
CNN’s Angus Watson contributed reporting.