Very old Australians may remember the fabled blue lagoon at Hayman Island where Reg Ansett opened the Royal Hayman in 1950. It was extolled in the magazines of the day as a place where the deep and recent scars of World War II could heal, and the fears about the Korean war and the Red menace could be kept below the horizon. Where you could honeymoon, or holiday. Where you went to begin, or to forget.
Hayman was costly. Australia was poor. Hayman was definitely for rich families. It became one of the aspirational images of suburban billboard and family magazine advertising. And you went there by an Ansett flying boat, a huge double decker flying machine that took off from Rose Bay and flew for hours at around 250 kilometres an hour at maybe 2000 metres maximum altitude and probably after refuelling would land in the Hayman lagoon, which looked like Bali Hai on the poster dreamings.
I didn’t get to Hayman Island until 1987, after the Reg Ansett age was over. The second Ansett, the airline run by Sir Peter Abeles, then opened a sensational luxury resort that replaced the original ‘shacks’. It ultimately cost something like $500 million in the dollars of the decade of the white shoe brigade.
By that time the flying boats had long ceased to land at Hayman, and visitors arrived by luxury launch from the newly opened jet strip at Hamilton Island, where Keith Williams had built something completely different.
Since then Hayman has changed owners, and from all reports, done well and become one of the more famous upmarket properties in Australia in domestic and international tourism.
But it never really seems to have been synchronised with the Jetstar approach to domestic tourism, which may explain today’s announcement that from 1 July Virgin Blue will start selling inclusive fare and luxury launch transfer deals straight from the Hamilton Island strip to Reg Ansett’s fabled blue lagoon.
For those with long memories, this is not Virgin Blue quietly assuming another part of the legacy of the Ansett that collapsed almost 8 years ago. This is about becoming the preferred airline to a very special place chosen by RM Ansett 62 years ago.