Qantas 75th Anniversary Celebration?
Wunala Dreaming -
Qantas' first 'painted plane', with aboriginal designs, is a
distinctive and memorable sight.
Qantas is the world's second
oldest airline (KLM being the first) and it proudly held
celebrations all around the world to celebrate its 75th
anniversary - I had the great honor to attend their official
function in Los Angeles.
The following letter purports
to have been published in the Qantas Flight Operations
Newsletter dated June 96. I've seen it a couple of times
in various places over the last decade or so, but while the
letter might be real, the circumstances are almost certainly
However there were indeed company wide
celebrations in honor of Qantas' 75th anniversary, and speaking
as a New Zealander myself who has occasionally participated in
NZ and Australian company celebrations at various hotels that have become perhaps a
little too convivial, the events below are only one or two steps
removed from reality.
I should add that the 75th
Anniversary celebration in Los Angeles was a dry and starchy
Business Class here, and have a different type of
Qantas Joke story,
courtesy of Sir Richard Branson, here.
In your icy, indeed hostile,
telephone call of yesterday, you requested a report about the
alleged proceedings involving my crew at the Qantas 75th
Birthday celebration at the slip port.
As the reports from the
local authorities and the head of the Australian legation were
undoubtedly a complete fabrication, I take the opportunity to
put the truth of the matter on file. Qantas management's
kind offer to "buy a round of drinks" was taken on board by the
crew who decided to upgrade the event to its correct status, so
appropriate quantities of libation and food were purchased, with
festivities being held in my hotel suite.
An enjoyable evening ensued
but insufficient supplies had been obtained, so several members
of the crew left for further purchases at a local bar. In
a truly magnanimous gesture, ten bar girls from that
establishment helped carry the beer back to the hotel. To
demonstrate our appreciation of their assistance, we served them
some cool drink. They then offered to show us some local
culture, and, in order not to offend, we allowed them to dance
some exotic dances.
The banging on the walls of
my room had, by now, quite honestly, become invasive, and it was
disturbing the dancers, so we arranged an amusing little
deterrent. S/0 Brown's impersonation of the Police Officer
was excellent! In full Qantas uniform, with an aluminium
rubbish bin upside down on his head, he goose-stepped to each
room and harangued the occupants with a very witty diatribe
about disturbing hotel guests. I personally heard nothing
of his alleged threats of life in Alcatraz or the Gulags,
claimed by the sister of the Minister of Police whose room was,
unluckily, next door.
I have no doubt that this
woman was the sneak who called security and hotel management and
I absolutely refute that the shout "Look out, here come the
Indians! Circle the wagons!" was made. The simple
coincidence of security arriving just as we stood the double bed
on its side across the door to make the dance floor bigger is
obvious. The major damage to the room occurred when a
group of gate crashers, whom we could not know were hotel
security, forced their way in just as most of us happened to be
leaning against the bed watching the dancing.
The subsequent events in the
foyer of the hotel are an equally vicious distortion of the
facts. I was explaining the importance of the 75th
Birthday to the General Manager of the hotel and noting that
other guests were fabricating stories of noise, drinking and
singing at the celebration, when F/O Smith (ex-SAS) and several
other keep-fit enthusiasts, in keeping with their almost
monastic pursuit of health, organised the race up the drapes
which hang along the foyer wall. It says nothing for the
workmanship of some of these nations that the fittings were torn
from the wall before most of the crew were even halfway up.
At this stage, in an amazing
display of international posturing, the Governor of the city,
who was attending the National Day cocktail party in the foyer,
cast some denigrating remarks about Australian culture.
Although he misunderstood our gestures of greeting, female
flight attendant Williams rescued the situation with her depth
of knowledge of local culture. Her rendition of the
Fertility Dancing Maiden in the foyer's 'Pool of Remembrance'
was nothing short of breathtaking. Normally this dance is
performed wearing just a sarong skirt so FFA Williams' extra
step to nature was a bold step forward.
Unfortunately, during one
intricate step, FFA Williams slipped and fell beneath the
fountain, so we were lucky that S/0 Brown, who had the great
presence of mind to strip to avoid getting his uniform wet,
leapt in to help. That the tiles of the pool were slippery
is beyond dispute, as it took nearly ten minutes of threshing
about before S/O Brown could actually complete his rescue.
Such concern was there for
these two exemplary crew member's safety, that the rest of the
crew were forced to assist, and I deny that this massed
altruistic rescue attempt could be construed as a 'Water Polo'
game! This slanderous accusation was first put to me by
the Chief of the Riot Squad, whose storm troopers had apparently
been called by some over zealous Fascists at the cocktail party.
Order had nearly been
restored when the fire started. I prefer F/O Smith's
version of events that the drapes had caught fire from being
against a light fitting, and that he dropped his cigarette
lighter whilst trying to escape the flames. Had host
management fulfilled their responsibilities and used fire
retardant material instead of velvet, the fire would not have
spread to the rest of the hotel. The responsible attitude
shown by my crew in assisting the bar staff to carry out drinks
from the cocktail party is to be commended, not condemned, and
the attempt by male members of the crew to extinguish pockets of
fire using natural means has been totally misrepresented in some
I cannot overstate how
strongly I resent the assertions made in the Chief Fire
Officer's Report. I made an official protest about these
matters when the head of the Australian Legation visited us at
the Police Station the next morning. However, not only did
Ambassador Jones not attempt to refute the preposterous
allegations made against me and my crew, but also by failing to
secure our release immediately, caused the subsequent aircraft
delay. I did not know Her Majesty was to be aboard our
aircraft, but I am sure that her 12- hour visit to that country
was appreciated by local dignitaries and probably HRH herself.
(I must mention that the local manager is far too obsequious -
Smarmy! Smarmy! You should have seen him bowing and
scraping. Never make a Prime Minister, that chap!)
Finally, I note that not
since 'Rainman' has Qantas been mentioned in so many newspapers
(some people in Qantas would die for coverage like that).
The main newspaper at the slip port coincidentally mentioned
Qantas 75 times on its front page alone, although some of the
coupled epithets can only be described as the worst journalistic
excesses of the gutter press.
I trust that now I have
outlined the correct version of events, we may allow ourselves a
discreet smile as to the lack of social sophistication of some
of these developing nations and put all this behind us. As
far as I am concerned, the crew carried on the finest Qantas
Gordon Shanklin, Captain
PS : I checked amongst
the language qualified members of the crew, but no one was up to
speed on Latin. Can you recommend anyone in the
International Department who could translate 'Persona Non Grata'?
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2 Jan 2007, last update
21 Jul 2020
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.