Decorated World War I veterans Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness, along with businessman Fergus McMaster, formed Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited on 16 November 1920, with a vision of better connecting Australian towns and cities.

Portrait of Hudson Fysh, c. 1954, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

In the same year, organised and regulated civil aviation was born in Australia, with the passing of the Air Navigation Act 1920. Soon after, the government began to put airmail routes out to tender, which helped many early airlines to become viable operations. Qantas began operating a scheduled airmail and passenger service from Charleville to Cloncurry, Queensland, in 1922.

Qantas conducted its first international passenger flight on 17 April 1935, when the service to Darwin was extended to Singapore (Imperial Airways operated the rest of the 11.5-day service through to London). The route was named the “Kangaroo Route”, so named for the journey being completed through a series of hops. This first flight involved two paying customers on a D.H.86 aircraft, which could only accommodate 10 passengers (seven on the international section of the route), and, incredibly, involved 31 stops to England.

Qantas D.H.86 VH-USC, later named R.M.A. (Royal Mail Aircraft) Canberra, at Darwin, c. 1934, courtesy Civil Aviation Historical Society collection

In December 1947, with its new Lockheed L-749 Constellation aircraft in service, Qantas embarked on the first all-Qantas Kangaroo Route flight, from Sydney to London. This four-day journey, now with six stops, offered Australians a glamorous, luxurious and fast alternative to weeks at sea. As a result, Australia was increasingly advertised as a sun-filled holiday destination for Europeans.

Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation VH-EAD Southern Dawn flying over Sydney airport, January 1958, courtesy Les Lyons/Civil Aviation Historical Society collection
Qantas travel poster, designed by Frank McNamara, courtesy Qantas Airways Ltd
Constellation-era Qantas Empire Airways/British Overseas Airways Corporation Kangaroo Service luggage sticker, c. 1950s, courtesy of Civil Aviation Historical Society/Capt. Stuart Archbold collection

In the late 1950s, with its highly profitable Kangaroo Route service in full swing, Qantas negotiated the rights to operate across the United States, something that no other international airline had achieved. Scheduled “round the world” services began from Melbourne, in 1958, using Qantas Super Constellation aircraft, combining the Kangaroo Route with the “Southern Cross” route (London, New York, San Francisco, Honolulu and Fiji).

Qantas Boeing 707-338, courtesy Qantas Airways Ltd

In June 1959, Qantas entered the jet age, when the first Boeing 707 jetliners took to the skies, halving flying times. Boeing 707s and 747s became iconic aircraft in the Qantas fleet. In 2008, the Qantas fleet was bolstered with the introduction of Airbus A380s – the world’s largest passenger aircraft. In 2018, Qantas flew its fastest flight on the Kangaroo Route – a 17-hour direct flight between Perth and London.

In 2020, Qantas is in its centenary year, having not only connected Australian towns and cities to each other but also to the world. The centenary is marked as part of the Civil Aviation: 100 Years stamp issue, which will be released on 6 October 2020. Qantas’ early success and the pioneering work of government to create a strong and safe civil aviation environment are closely linked. The $1.10 stamp from the issue features the Qantas Dreamliner aircraft, with a special centenary livery, taking off from Sydney Airport. The livery includes all iterations of the iconic Qantas logo, including Gert Sellheim’s “flying kangaroo” logo of 1947.

$1.10 - Qantas: 100 Years stamp from the Civil Aviation: 100 Years stamp issue
1947 Qantas logo, designed by Gert Sellheim, courtesy Qantas Airways Ltd

Released as part of the stamp issue are some special Qantas-themed collectables. There’s a postal numismatic cover, featuring the $1.10 stamp from the issue and containing a $1 Qantas Centenary circulating coin from the Royal Australian Mint, as well as a medallion cover. The cover contains a specially produced 60-millimetre medallion featuring the iconic flying kangaroo.

The Civil Aviation: 100 Years stamp issue is available from 6 October 2020, online, at participating Post Offices and via mail order on 1800 331 794, while stocks last.

Philatelic Team


This content was produced at the time of the stamp issue release date and will not be updated.