Unofficial anthem perfect fit for airline

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 January, 2011, 12:00am

Just about everyone in Australia can recognise the tune of Advance Australia Fair, and knows at least some of the lyrics to Waltzing Matilda. But the continent's unofficial national anthem is I Still Call Australia Home, which was emotively sung by a choir of children as the backing music to one of the most successful advertising campaigns of modern times.

Written by entertainer Peter Allen in 1980, the song tells of peripatetic ockers' longing for home, listing the countries they've travelled to, but indicating that Australia is where they prefer to be. It was the perfect lyric for the country's international airline, Qantas.

Qantas started life in 1920 as Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services, providing domestic services until 1935, when it made its first international flight from Darwin to Singapore. After the second world war, the airline grew rapidly, taking delivery of its first jet in 1959. It is one of the few carriers that flies to all five inhabited continents, and it also operates flight-seeing charters over Antarctica.

Top among its Asian destinations are Hong Kong and Shanghai, closely followed by Tokyo and Mumbai. Qantas starts service to Dallas from May, complementing flights to New York, Los Angeles, and Honolulu in the United States. Qantas links Australia to Europe via Frankfurt and London, and also flies to Buenos Aires in Argentina and Johannesburg in South Africa.

Strong internationally, Qantas is a powerhouse when it comes to linking the major cities and towns on its home turf. The main hub is in Sydney, with connections to all the major coastal destinations. The interior is also well covered.

Qantas' fleet comprises a mix of Airbus and Boeing aircraft. Qantas has named its aircraft ever since 1926. Themes have included Greek gods, stars, leading personalities in Australian aviation history and Australian birds. Since 1959, the majority of Qantas aircraft have been named after Australian cities.

As one of the icons of the nation's industry, Qantas - nicknamed 'The Flying Kangaroo' - is deeply involved in the community in Australia and around the world. Qantas supports the Australian of the Year Award which, for the past half century, has annually recognised the country's leading citizens. Past winners have included ophthalmologist Fred Hollows, tennis great Pat Rafter, research biologist Sir Gustav Nossal, epidemiologist Fiona Stanley, country singer Slim Dusty, swimmer Ian Thorpe, and Khoa Do, the actor, writer and film director. The award recognises over-60s, under-25s, and a 'local hero', and the main Australian of the Year.

Qantas is a strong supporter of the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children, one of Australia's oldest charities which is dedicated to providing the best possible education for youngsters whose sight and hearing is impaired. Cabin crew collect donations from passengers as part of Unicef's Change for Good programme.