The Journey by Air

1960s Qantas Boeing 707 Jetliner
1960s Qantas Boeing 707 Jetliner.
Image: Bill Woods
Source: Museum Victoria

Ocean liners remained the main form of transportation for immigrants to Australia well into the 1960s. However, wealthier immigrants had been migrating to Australia by air from the 1930s. The first organised flights for immigrants occurred in 1947, although it was not until the introduction of long-range jet aircraft a decade later that a significant number of migrants began to arrive by air.

Among the first occasions on which aircraft were chartered to bring migrants out from Europe were following the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 and the Czechoslovakian crisis of 1968. On both occasions there was insufficient time to organise transport by ship.

The transition from mass sea travel to mass air travel for most migrants in the 1960s had a profound influence on the immigration experience. No longer was there a quiet period of several weeks between departure and arrival during which people had a chance to contemplate the past and the future. Instead, they experienced the disjuncture of being at home one day and in a new country on the next.

I came by air; my husband paid ?450 for a Qantas ticket. This was most unusual as no-one travelled by air at that time. I left Rome on Wednesday and arrived at Essendon airport on Saturday. I spoke no English and no-one on the plane spoke Italian. We stopped at many places; I remember Cairo and also Manila. It would have been a lovely trip if I had not been alone. I was not afraid on the plane, but I was frightened to get off at the stops as I understood nothing.
- Carmela travelled to Australia to join her husband in December 1957. (Extract from Wardrop, Bella Susi By Proxy: a study of Italian proxy brides in Australia, Italian Historical Society Co.As.It, Carlton 1996. Reproduced courtesy of Co.As.It.)


Read an article about the history of QANTAS prepared for the 1986 Queensland Year Book and republished on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website:

Make a list of the types of aircraft used by QANTAS in the post-war period. Many immigrants would have flown in these aircraft when coming to Australia.

Search the Internet for an image and description of the facilities onboard each type of aircraft.