The Kangaroo Route traditionally refers to air routes flown by Qantas between Australia and the United Kingdom via the Eastern Hemisphere. The term is trademarked by Qantas, although it is used in the media and by airline competitors.
In 1935 Qantas started flying passengers to Singapore in a De Havilland 86 to connect with London-bound Imperial Airways. London to Brisbane service commenced on 13 April 1935. Imperial Airways and Qantas Empire Airways opened the 12,754 mile London to Brisbane route for passengers for a single fare £195. There were no through bookings on the first service because of heavy sector bookings, but there were two through passengers on the next flight that left London on 20 April. The route opened for passengers from Brisbane to London on 17 April; flights were weekly and the journey time was 12½ days including the rail trip between Paris and Brindisi.
BOAC/Qantas landplane flights from Hurn Airport in southern England to Sydney began in May 1945, initially via Learmonth; after an Avro Lancastrian ditched in the Indian Ocean crossing in 1946, the route shifted back to Singapore. The ABC Guide for September 1947 shows six flights a week from Sydney to England: three Lancastrians that took 77 hr 30 min to Heathrow and three flying boats that took 168 hr 55 min to Poole. In February 1959 Qantas' fastest Super Constellation took 63 hr 45 min Sydney to Heathrow and BOAC's Britannia took 49 hr 25 min. Jet flights (Qantas 707) started in 1959; in April 1960 the fastest trip Sydney to London was 34 hr 30 min with eight stops.
Qantas first flew the Kangaroo Route on 1 December 1947. A Lockheed Constellation carried 29 passengers and 11 crew from Sydney to London with stops in Darwin, Singapore, Calcutta, Karachi, Cairo and Tripoli (passengers stayed overnight in Singapore and Cairo). A return fare was £585, equivalent to 130 weeks average pay. In the 1950s some Qantas flights made other stops, including Frankfurt, Zürich, Athens, Belgrade, Rome, Beirut, Tehran, Bombay and Colombo. In May 1958 the Kangaroo Route had 11 westward flights a week: four Qantas Super Constellations, four BOAC Britannias and one Air India Super Constellation from Sydney to London, one KLM Super Constellation Sydney to Amsterdam, and one TAI DC-6B Auckland to Paris. In June 1969 Qantas had 11 Kangaroo Route flights a week from Sydney to London, taking 29–32 hours with 5-6 stops each; BOAC's 9 flights (or possibly 7) had 5-7 stops.
From January 1958 Qantas had a round-the-world network, flying Australia to Europe westward on the Kangaroo Route and eastward on the Southern Cross Route (via Pacific Ocean). In 1964 Qantas started a third route to London via Tahiti, Mexico and the Caribbean, called the Fiesta Route. Qantas dropped their Southern Cross Route and Fiesta Route in 1974-75.
In 1971 Qantas added Boeing 747s, reducing the travel time and number of stops (in the late 1970s flights typically stopped at Singapore and Bahrain). Fares fell, opening air travel to more people with more competition.
In 1989 Qantas set a world distance record for commercial jets when a Boeing 747–400 flew non stop London to Sydney in just over 20 hours.
By 2014 around 20 airlines operated services between the United Kingdom and Australia including Air China, Air India, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Garuda Indonesia, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Thai Airways, Philippine Airlines and Singapore Airlines.
In September 2012, as part of a new arrangement with Emirates, Qantas announced that - commencing in 2013 - all through services to the United Kingdom would stop at Dubai, and their "Asian services will no longer be a subsidiary of the 'Kangaroo Route'". A hub in the middle of a route is more effective than a hub at either end as connecting traffic more easily fills the plane. Qantas also announced that its service to Frankfurt via Singapore end in April 2013, leaving London as its only European destination.
The book Beyond the Blue Horizon by travel correspondent Alexander Frater documents the author's attempt to fly all the sectors on the original 1935 Imperial/Qantas London-Brisbane route in 1984.
- Southern Cross Route – the Kangaroo Route's counterpart travelling via the Western Hemisphere
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- "QANTAS and Emirates". QANTAS. Retrieved 9 September 2012. "Our Asian services will no longer be a subsidiary of the 'Kangaroo Route', they will be dedicated to connecting Australians with our region, and Asian visitors to Australia."
- Schofield, Adrian (27 August 2012). "Competition Heats Up As Carriers Contest Kangaroo Routes". Aviation Week. Retrieved 22 November 2012. "Hub logic says you want to be in the middle, offering multiple one-stops"
- Qantas bids farewell to Frankfurt