Qantas Celebrates 75 Years in Hong Kong

A Qantas Boeing 747 parked at Kai Tak airport Hong Kong
Dicky0615, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This week marked a significant milestone for Qantas, celebrating 75 years of connecting Australia and Hong Kong.

The journey began on June 26, 1949, when a Douglas DC-4 Skymaster propeller aircraft touched down at Kai Tak Airport, signifying the first-ever Qantas service to this bustling Asian hub.

Back then, the flight path stretched from Sydney to Hong Kong with stopovers in Darwin and Labuan, making for an epic journey exceeding 20 hours.

Qantas’ Hong Kong story is intricately woven with the remarkable evolution of the aviation industry. From the propeller-driven DC-4 Skymasters to the jet age, the airline has witnessed a fascinating transformation.

Photo Credit: Qantas

Passengers in the early years would have experienced the iconic Super Constellations and Lockheed Electras, marvels of their time that gradually gave way to the jet age.

The arrival of Boeing 707s ushered in a new era of speed and efficiency, followed by the Boeing 767s and the the iconic “Queen of the Skies”, the Boeing 747s.

The Kai Tak Challenge

The early years of Qantas’ Hong Kong service were defined not only by the pioneering spirit of the time but also by the unique challenges presented by Kai Tak Airport.

Nestled amidst the bustling Kowloon City district, Kai Tak was a far cry from the modern airports of today.

Its single runway jutted out into Kowloon Bay, forcing incoming flights to navigate a maze of towering buildings and steep hills.

Photo Credit: Qantas

For pilots, the most iconic and demanding approach was the “Chequerboard Approach” for Runway 13. This daring maneuver involved a series of sharp turns and descents at a low altitude.

It earned its name after the distinctive checkered pattern painted on a Kowloon hillside. This served as a crucial visual reference point for pilots flying the approach.

Passengers on the descent into Kai Tak were offered an unparalleled glimpse into the daily lives of Hong Kong residents.

Gazing down from close quarters, they could witness scenes like flickering televisions or families preparing dinner within the very apartments the Boeing 747s seemed to brush past.

Landing at Kai Tak was a baptism by fire for pilots, requiring exceptional skill and precision. Passengers, on the other hand, were treated to a front-row seat to the drama. They often witnessed the city unfold beneath them in a heart-stopping display of aviation prowess.

While undeniably challenging, Kai Tak’s unique location also fostered a sense of awe and wonder. The Hong Kong airport became a legendary landmark in the history of aviation.

Its closure in 1998 marked the end of an era. However, the legacy of Kai Tak’s daring approaches continues to fascinate aviation enthusiasts around the world.

A Qantas 747 taxies in Hong Kong.
Phillip Capper from Wellington, New Zealand, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hong Kong Present Day

Today, Qantas offers a far cry from those early 20-hour flights. The airline operates daily services between Hong Kong and Sydney, as well as Melbourne. These days it operates the modern widebody Airbus A330 aircraft.

These flights provide a comfortable and efficient travel experience. This is a stark contrast to the propeller aircraft and multiple stopovers of the past.

Passengers can now enjoy amenities like in-seat entertainment systems, Wi-Fi connectivity, and a wider selection of in-flight dining options.

A Qantas A380 on approach to Hong Kong.
N509FZ, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Over the decades, Qantas cultivated strong partnerships with local businesses. The carrier has played a vital role in fostering tourism and trade between Australia and Asia.

Looking ahead, Qantas’ future in Hong Kong remains equally bright. The airline is constantly innovating and investing in its fleet to provide passengers with the best possible travel experience.

This includes the introduction of new aircraft models that are more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly. Qantas is also committed to providing a seamless travel experience, with initiatives like digital check-in and baggage tracking.


As Hong Kong continues to be a major business and travel hub, Qantas is well-positioned to play a key role in connecting people and cultures for years to come.

The airline’s strategic location in Australia allows it to offer convenient connections to other parts of the Asia-Pacific region, making it a preferred choice for travelers on both business and leisure trips.

This 75th anniversary is a testament to the enduring partnership between Qantas and Hong Kong. It’s a story of continuous improvement, adaptation, and a shared vision of connecting people across continents.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 6 Min Read
6 Min Read
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