Australians are well known as keen travellers, and our geographical isolation has meant that air travel has long been a very important part of this aspect of our national identity. Perhaps unusually, this has grown into a strong local affinity for certain models of aircraft – especially the big ones. But is this set to change?
The Boeing 747, for example, has long held a special place in Australia’s heart. It was a 747 that set the then record for a flight carrying the largest number of passengers while evacuating 673 people from Darwin after Cyclone Tracy in 1974, it was the 747 called ‘City of Canberra’ that set the new commercial aircraft distance record in 1989 when it flew non-stop from London to Sydney, and it is a 747 immortalised by Paul Kelly in ‘Sydney from a 747’, still sometimes played while a flight circles the Harbour as it waits to land.
The current favourite is the A380, which was so quickly embraced and absorbed as part of our travelling lives. Its rock star status is such that Qantas have recognised that passengers may book particular flights just to fly in this model, with a section on its website headed ‘How do I book the Qantas A380?’ setting out the particular flight numbers and routes on which a passenger can be (almost) guaranteed to fly on one. It has become one of our familiar characters, and for a lot of expats the A380 is one of the important constants of our trips home. There is nothing like the feeling of stepping off QF2 in Sydney on Christmas morning – material worthy of the Qantas Christmas advert.