The Kangaroo Route traditionally refers to air routes flown by Qantas between the countries of 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.
By 2003 over 20 airlines operated the route. 3 airlines offer through flights (i.e. not requiring passengers to change plane en route) on the Kangaroo Route: British Airways, Qantas and Virgin Atlantic.
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 England (Hurn) to Sydney began in May 1945, initially via Learmonth; after a Lancastrian vanished on 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 late October 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 ferried 29 passengers and 11 crew from Sydney to London, with stopovers in Darwin, Singapore, Calcutta, Karachi, Cairo and Tripoli (passengers stay overnight in Singapore and Cairo). A return fare was £585, equivalent to 130 weeks average pay. Qantas changed the routing to variably include other interline stops, including Frankfurt, Zürich, Athens, Belgrade, Rome, Beirut, Tehran, Bombay and Colombo.
From January 1958 Qantas had a round-the-world network with aircraft 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 the 1970s but Air New Zealand use Southern Cross Route to London.
In 1959 Qantas introduced Boeing 707 from Sydney to London via New York, however Boeing 707 not introduced on Kangaroo Route until they launched at September 1965 from Sydney to London through Kuala Lumpur. In June 1969 Qantas had 11 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. In 1971 Qantas added Boeing 747s. These aircraft reduce the travel time and number of stops between Europe and Australia (in the late 1970s flights would typically travel via Singapore and Bahrain). Fares dramatically fell, opening air travel to more people, with more airlines competition on the Kangaroo Route.
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 2003 around 20 airlines operated services between the United Kingdom and Australia including Air China, Air New Zealand, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.
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.
Aside from codeshares and alliances/partners, the airlines operating the Kangaroo Route are listed below: (Only for direct flight)
- Air China - from Sydney to several European airports connecting in Beijing. One can go to Frankfurt, Milan and Paris from Sydney and Melbourne with connections in Shanghai-Pudong.
- Cathay Pacific - from Auckland and 6 Australian airports (Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney) to 7 European airports (London-Heathrow, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Milan, Rome, Moscow) with connection in Hong Kong.
- China Airlines - from Auckland, Brisbane, Sydney, Guam and Koror to 4 European airport (Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Rome, Vienna) with connections in Taipei.
- China Eastern Airlines - from Sydney, Melbourne and Saipan to 6 European airports (London-Heathrow, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Rome, Moscow), with connections in Shanghai.
- China Southern Airlines - from Auckland, Saipan and 5 Australian airports (Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney) to London-Heathrow, Paris and Amsterdam connecting in Guangzhou. One can go to Moscow and Istanbul by connecting in Ürümqi after Guangzhou.
- Emirates - from Auckland, Christchurch and 5 Australian airports (Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney) to over 30 European airport with connection in Dubai.
- Etihad Airways - from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney to over 20 European airports with connection in Abu Dhabi.
- EVA Airways - from Brisbane and Guam to Amsterdam, London-Heathrow, Paris and Vienna with connection in Taipei.
- Korean Air - from Auckland, Brisbane, Sydney, Guam, Koror and Nadi to over 20 European destinations with connection in Seoul.
- Qatar Airways - from Melbourne and Perth to several European airports with connections in Doha.
- Singapore Airlines - from Auckland, Christchurch and 5 Australian airports (Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney) to over 30 European airports connecting in Singapore.
- Thai Airways International - from Auckland and 4 Australian airports (Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney) to several European airports with connections in Bangkok.
- Vietnam Airlines - from Sydney and Melbourne to London-Gatwick, Paris, Frankfurt and Moscow with connections in Ho Chi Minh City.
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.
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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