Back to the future is certainly an overused phrase, but in the case of the Qantas retro Boeing 737, it really is back to the future in more ways than one.
The airline has battled severe headwinds and turbulence over the past four years but has turned the corner and spirits are lifting.
The latest 737-800 adorned with a 1970s colour scheme, introduced with the first 747 in 1971, is a flagship of the new Qantas that has gone back to the future, and back to basics, to regain its mojo.
And if the delivery flight of VH-XZP named after former Qantas CEO and trailblazer, the late James Strong, is any guide the new Qantas will be flying high.
Guests on the delivery flight were treated to an amazing 1970s themed meal completed with flight attendants dressed in the 1970s Pucci uniform of green blazer and floral dress.
The restaurant in the sky treatment however is not just for the delivery flight with the airline announcing that it is super sizing meals –and doubling the choice – on all international flights from next month.
And in more news from the airline, from next month, the airline’s A330s will be fitted out with lie-flat beds in business class on domestic routes.
The newest addition to the Qantas fleet touched down in Sydney on Wednesday November 19 and is a flying tribute to mark seven decades of the Flying Kangaroo logo.
Qantas Airways CEO Alan Joyce joined past and present staff and executives, Boeing executives and other guests to welcome the aircraft after it was given a water cannon salute from Air Services Australia.
“Seeing this brand new aircraft in classic livery inspires a real sense of pride in all that Qantas and its people have achieved,” said Mr Joyce. “For 70 years this familiar kangaroo on the tail has represented not just our airline but also the best of Australia and a sense of home for those who have seen it at airports around the world. We are especially proud to name this aircraft after our friend and former CEO, James Strong. James was instrumental in the making of the modern Qantas, including the merger with Australian Airlines.”
James Strong was Qantas CEO from 1993 to 2001 and later served on the Qantas Board until his death in March 2013. And in a moving ceremony Mrs Strong unveiled a surprise bow tie beneath the name James Strong. The late Mr Strong always wore bow ties.
The retro 737 also provides a fascinating snapshot of then and now for Qantas and for aviation.
The Qantas Group now operates nearly eight times more aircraft than in the 1970s with 308 planes.
And the airfares have taken a massive tumble.
In 1974 a return economy airfare from Sydney to London was $774.70, which was six times the average weekly wage at the time. Today the London return trip starts from approx $2,600 which is just two times the average Australian weekly wage.
In 1974 Qantas employed about 13,000 staff and today the staff count numbers 30,000.
And in 1974 Qantas flew to just 31 international destinations and today its network of international ports is 250 and domestically 54.
In 1974 Qantas prepared approx 2.4 million meals a year and now it prepares 42 million.
And if you were travelling in 1974 you had two choices – first and economy. Today there is first, business, premium economy and economy.
In-flight entertainment has also gone through an incredible revolution. In 1974 the IFE was audio channels and movies on a big screen on the 747. There were 2 stereo and 8 mono audio channels available.
Today Qantas offers an almost endless range of IFE from your seat back with over 200 movies.