End of an era as Qantas retires the 737 classic

VH-TJS departs Canberra. (Gerard Frawley)
VH-TJS departs Canberra. (Gerard Frawley)

Qantas has operated its last 737-400 revenue flight, marking the end of scheduled Boeing 737-300/-400 ‘classic’ passenger services in Australia.

Qantas 737-476 VH-TJS Jabiru operated the final service, QF819 from Canberra to Melbourne, on Sunday afternoon, the 48 minute flight departing at 17:23 and touching down 48 minutes later at 18:11. An Airservices ARFF monitor cross on pushback in Canberra marked the milestone.

The CFM56-powered 737 classic was introduced into Australia with Australian Airlines, which took delivery of 737-300 VH-TAG in August 1986. Later that month Ansett too took delivery of its first 737-300, VH-CZA. The first Australian Airlines 737-400 was delivered from December 1988. Both the 737-300 and -400 became a mainstay of the Qantas domestic fleet following the Qantas-Australian Airlines merger in 1992-93. VH-TJS was in fact the last 737-400 to be delivered in Australian Airlines colours.

The classic will continue to ply its trade in Australia as a freighter, with 737-300Fs remaining in service with Qantas Freight and Toll Express. In addition, Nauru’s Our Airline has three 737-300s on the VH register.

VH-TJS receives an ARFF salute on pushback from Canberra. (Gerard Frawley)
VH-TJS receives an ARFF salute on pushback from Canberra. (Gerard Frawley)
VH-TJS on approach to Melbourne's runway 16. (Gordon Reid)
VH-TJS on approach to Melbourne’s runway 16. (Gordon Reid)



  1. Red Barron says

    A true workhorse for Qantas, However retirement defiantly over due. I flew in a 400 back from Townsville to Brisbane over a year ago it was defiantly showing it’s age with worn interior and drab paint. Joyce sure got his money worth out of these birds.

  2. Marc says

    The 717’s are much quieter in the front half of the plane. With less seats, they’re quicker to load/unload too. I actually prefer the smaller jets. As for the 737s, weren’t they in service with Ansett earlier than 1986?

  3. Scott says

    I’ve flown in TJS and a bunch of others, what a workhorse slogging it out for years without serious incident.. A sad end of course, but many fond memories of the classic. Till the next one retires I guess..

  4. Andrew says

    Yes, QF certainly got their money’s worth with that model! Great planes…

    Minor detail- classic 737s (ie any non-Next Generation models) were actually introduced to Australia by Ansett in June 1981 with the -200 marque. Those earlier models didn’t stay long however, before the introduction of the -300 and -400 marques.

    Glad we can still see these older workhorses flying around as freighters 🙂

  5. Joseph Favazza says

    The B737-300 was a wonderful asset for any Airline. Methinks Australian Airlines introduced the First B737-300 in August 1986, VH-TAG ‘Advance’ Australian Airlines were the first to have the ‘EFIS Cockpit’ , Ansett introduced their B737-300 in September 1986, VH-CZA. Ansett did have B737-200’s at the time.

  6. Luke says

    Yes, Ansett did have 737s earlier than 1986. They were 737-200s. With the fleet for a very short time and sold to America West.

  7. australianaviation.com.au says

    Regarding Ansett’s 737-200s, the ‘classic’ moniker is widely accepted to mean the CFM56-3 powered 737-300/-400/-500 series, and not the earlier JT8D-powered 737-100 and -200.

  8. Sean says

    In Dublin Aer Lingus called the B737-200 “classic”, 300/400/500 “EFIS”. Now only Airbus !!!

  9. Ian says

    Having clocked up over 50 CBR-BNE-TSV and return flights in the last 4 years I can say the 400 was a good solid plane but most probably due for retirement. While I find the new 800 series a very “clean and bright” aircraft I would hazard a guess there would less than a third of the fleet with seat-back entertainment systems despite some advertising that gives the impression that it is across the board. As such the new capability doesn’t really offer a lot of difference.

    As for the 717 used on some of routes ex Canberra – a nice, clean and comfortable aircraft that is certainly quiter than a lot of jets.

  10. Reverend says

    i would like to see the boeing 747-400 767 gone. and Qantas buy the boeing 787-9 50 of them and buy the A380 Airbus or may be boeing 777-8x. I hope the codeshare between Qantas and SAA to Johannesburg will be reinstated

  11. Glen says

    It won’t be many of these left soon Air NZ will soon retire all of these once all there A320s are delivered . I must admit I no fan of the 737 much prefer the A320 more room and quieter .

  12. franz chong says

    I have been on a few of these in my time and love them but like anything things have to go and time to move on.It was 1990 when the 737-400’s first arrived and they have lasted a long time.

  13. JWJ says

    A couple of vague bits of history. VH-TJS came out of the paintshop with Jabiru spelt Jabira. The plane was planned to be the first 737-400 to be delivered in Qantas colours … but the co-branding was delayed and so, as noted, it was the last 737 delivered in Australian Airlines livery.

  14. Taurean Lea says

    I would like to congratulate all of the Boeing 737-400s on their retirement after many years of service to Australia. I am going to miss the Qantas Boeing 737-400s very much :’-(.

  15. Ian P says

    Would have been nice for it to end up at the QF Museum. Maybe a 763 will end its days there as the resale market must be limited.