From 28 days to 19 hours: The story of the Kangaroo route

As the Qantas test flight from London to Sydney touched down on Friday morning (local time), it wasn't just a massive step forward for the future of the airline - it was also a milestone moment for its history as it begins celebrating its centenary year. 

It's almost impossible to compare the aircraft that touched down in Sydney after a 19 hour flight from London to the aircraft that used to fly the same route half a century ago, but here are the key differences.

Qantas Constellation aircraft.
Qantas Constellation aircraft. Photo credit: Qantas.

Then and Now:

When Qantas operated their first service between Sydney and London, the trip had six stops and involved 55 hours of flying time.


  • Aircraft: Lockheed Constellation
  • Range: 4184 km
  • Speed: 555 km/h
  • Capacity: 29 passengers, 11 crew
  • Airfare: Equivalent of NZ$24,684 in 2019, when adjusted for inflation
  • Stops: Six - Darwin, Singapore, Calcutta, Karachi, Cairo, Tripoli
Qantas Constellation aircraft.
Qantas Constellation aircraft. Photo credit: Qantas


  • Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
  • Range: 14,140 km
  • Speed: 956 km/h
  • Capacity: 250 - 400 passengers, depending on cabin configuration 
  • Airfare: Ranging from NZ$1500 - NZ$2200
  • Stops: One, but soon to be none
Vintage Qantas Aircraft flying to New Zealand.
Qantas flights to New Zealand. Photo credit: Qantas

The £585 price of a return airfare in 1947 was the equivalent of more than two years the average wage at the time. Depending on the time of year and availability, an airfare in 2019 is likely to cost just two weeks of the average wage.

Qantas' flights to London began in 1947, but the airline had been very active well before that.

In 1935 it began airmail delivery flights to Singapore, which then became passenger services within months.

In 1938, Qantas purchased a fleet of flying boats which operated out of Sydney's 'international airport' located in Sydney Harbour.

By 1971, the airline was well established and raised the standards of travel in Australia with the introduction of its first Boeing 747.

Qantas then became the only airline in the world with a fleet that consisted entirely of Boeing 747s. 

In 1989, when Qantas took delivery of their first 747-400, it became the first aircraft to fly non-stop to Sydney from London. It was, however, entirely empty with no passengers or cargo onboard.

Qantas expects the non-stop commercial passenger flights between London and Sydney to begin in 2020.