Australia’s Qantas is the oldest airline in the English speaking world and there is plenty of intrigue and glamour in its past. From the Secret Order of the Double Sunrise to naming routes after animals there really is something unique about this airline. This brings us to the little known Flight 580.
Today Qantas Flight 580 is a routine transcontinental service between Perth and Sydney. This 5 hour flight at lunch time is operated by the Airbus A330-200 featuring the latest in modern comfort. Things were very different in the past.
Flying On A V-Jet
Boeing 707s at Qantas were known as V-Jets. This is an obscure reference to the latin word ‘Vannus’ from which the English word ‘Fan’ is derived. What does this have to do with an aeroplane?
Jet engines were originally designed so that all the air went through the core of the engine to be ignited with fuel to produce thrust. Unfortunately this produces a lot of noise and smoke which is no good at all.
Technological progress resulted in the use of a larger fan at the front of the engine. This means some of the air goes around the core, effectively bypassing it. These are known as turbofan engines and are more efficient and much quieter than the older turbojets.
Commercial engines today are all turbofans and they have a large diameter due to the fan in the front of the engine. Certainly a Qantas Boeing 707 V-Jet is much more glamorous than a common Airbus A330. Most importantly, you now know why it has V-Jet emblazoned across the tail!
Glamorous Fiesta Route
Perth to Sydney is hardly a route anyone would write home about. It is the premier transcontinental route in Australia and features the best on board domestic service at the airline – but glamorous? Not at all.
Back in 1970, Flight 580 was a very different beast. Care to guess the route? The fact it is called the Fiesta Route should give you a bit of a clue.
Departing Sydney on Thursday each week, the aircraft flew to Nadi in Fiji. Continuing across the Pacific Ocean the next stop en route is Papeete in French Polynesia on Tahiti. While that is pretty amazing, it gets better. Acapulco and Mexico City are the next two cities served which is where the Fiesta in the route name comes from.
Next, it is gorgeous Nassau in The Bahamas, followed by beautiful Bermuda before finishing up in London Heathrow. In airline parlance the route is SYD-NAN-PPT-ACA-MEX-NAS-BDA-LHR. The reverse – Flight 581 – departed London on Saturday. It sure beats a domestic cross country hop. Where’s my sombrero? I’m ready to go!
A Touch Of Intrigue
I love a bit of intrigue and this route makes me very curious. Clearly it is another route to London from Australia to rival the famous Kangaroo Route through Asia to London. The Fiesta Route also operated for quite a number of years with flights commencing in 1964 and still going strong in 1970.
Internet forums report that Australian people used to stop over along the way in Acapulco, Mexico City and Nassau which is no surprise. Flights always have to stop between Europe and Australia so Aussies are used to spending a few days at the stop off city. But how can this flight possibly be commercially viable with so many en route stops?
That is what sparks my intrigue. You would think the economics would be terrible. Thinking about it though, air fares were higher back then and Qantas was owned by the Government so considering these factors together is perhaps why it worked.
When I found out about this flight many years ago I thought it had one of the most glamorous set of destinations ever. Imagine having a week or two to get to London and stopping off for a few days at each place along the way. It would make for an excellent holiday on its own.
Do you know of any exciting routes for a single flight number? Did you ever fly on the Qantas Fiesta Route? Thanks for reading and please leave your comments or questions below.
Featured image by Richard Vandervord, black and white image by Barry Lewis and both via Wikimedia Commons.
All other images from Qantas Heritage Collection via VH-JET#1 & Her Sisters.