Qantas was founded in Winton, Queensland on 16 November 1920 as Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited by Paul McGuiness, Hudson Fysh, Fergus McMaster and Arthur Baird. Initially the airline operated air mail services subsidised by the Australian government, linking railheads in western Queensland. Between 1926 and 1928 Qantas built several aircraft in Longreach and made the inaugural flight of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, departing from Cloncurry. Qantas Empire Airways Limited (QEA) was formed by Qantas and Britain's Imperial Airways in 1934. They flew internationally from May 1935, when the service from Darwin was extended to Singapore. As operations expanded with flying boat service World War disrupted air travel until 1943. In 1947, QEA was nationalised, with the Australian Labor government buying the shares. In the same year the airline took delivery of Lockheed 749 Constellations and these took over the trunk route to London. In 1958, Qantas became the second round-the-world airline, flying Super Constellations westward from Australia to London through Asia and the Middle East.
In 1956, Qantas ordered the Boeing 707-138 jet airliner and the first was delivered in June 1959. The first jet service operated by Qantas was on 29 July 1959 from Sydney to San Francisco via Nadi and Honolulu. On 5 September 1959 Qantas became the third airline to fly jets across the North Atlantic. In 1966, the airline diversified its business by opening the 450 room Wentworth Hotel in Sydney. In 1967, the airline placed orders for the Boeing 747 and Qantas Empire Airways changed its name to Qantas Airways. When Cyclone Tracy devastated the town of Darwin at Christmas 1974, Qantas established a world record for the most people ever embarked on a single aircraft when it evacuated 673 people on a single Boeing 747 flight. In March 1979, Qantas operated its final Boeing 707 flight from Auckland to Sydney, and became the only airline in the world to have a fleet that consisted of Boeing 747s only.