Air travel has changed dramatically since the late 1930s when the first passenger flights were made between Europe and Australia. It is predicted that the new Boeing 777-8X will soon be able to fly non-stop from London to Sydney.

In the past

  • Fares
    In 1947 a return flight to Australia cost more than 100 times the average wage. It now costs less than two weeks’ wages to fly half way around the world.
  • Speed & Range
    A journey that used to take 10 days with 36 stopovers now takes less than 24 hours, with a single stopover.
  • Size
    The modern Airbus can carry well over 500 passengers, nearly 40 times more than the flying boats used in the 1930s.

The Evolution of Planes

Air travel has evolved considerably since World War II. Here are some of the different types of aircraft that have been used over the last century to travel between Europe and Australia.

flying-boat-on-sydney-harbourShort S23 Empire Flying Boats

Flying boats transported passengers between Rose Bay (Sydney) and Southampton (England) between 1938 and 1942. Passengers flew from Sydney to Singapore with a Qantas crew. An Imperial Airways (later British Airways) crew took over in Singapore to continue the remainder of the journey to Southampton.

Short Empire flying boats carried only 15 passengers and 5 crew and had a maximum speed of 320 km/h. The service to England operated three times a week and took 10 days, with a total of 36 stops required to refuel.

lockheed-constellationLockheed Constellations

After the War, Qantas introduced the propeller-driven Lockheed Constellation, operating a weekly service to London on their Kangaroo Route (via the Middle East). The first flight departed Sydney on 1st December 1947.

Constellations carried 29 passengers and 11 crew. The journey to London took four days (55 hours of flying time), with a total of 6 stops made in Darwin, Singapore, Calcutta, Karachi, Cairo and Tripoli. Passengers spent the night in Singapore and Cairo.

boeing-707Boeing 707s

In 1959, Qantas was the first airline to acquire a fleet of Boeing 707s outside of the United States. The introduction of the new jet saw flight times slashed.


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