LOS ANGELES, June 24 (Reuters)
Self-professed "airline geek" and actor John Travolta on Monday earned a new pair of wings as a first officer for Qantas Airways and unveiled a world tour to promote air travel that has weakened since Sept. 11.
Travolta, an avid pilot and Oscar-nominated star of movies from "Saturday Night Fever" to "Pulp Fiction," trained with Qantas and on 747 simulators at Boeing Co. in Seattle and was now officially "Ambassador-at-large" for the Australian airline.
Shortly after Qantas (QAN) Chief Executive Officer Geoff Dixon pinned the golden wings on Travolta, who was wearing a crisp blue aviator's uniform, the actor called the moment "one of the proudest days of my life."
"Without crying here, I would say it's at least alongside the two Oscar nominations I've received in my career. It's right up there with that," Travolta told reporters.
Travolta, 48, said as far back as when he was 4 years old, he wanted his own pilot's uniform. He began taking flying lessons at age 16 and earned his jet pilot's license in 1981. Since then, he has logged 5,000 hours of flying time.
"Besides my serious attitude toward flying, I have to admit something to all of you, I am an airline geek," Travolta said.
He has a son named Jett, and joked that he wanted to name his daughter "Qantas," but wife Kelly Preston wouldn't allow it.
Travolta said his new plans stem from a tour he took to Australia last summer to promote his action thriller, "Swordfish."
Travolta owns a vintage Boeing 707 that was first flown by Qantas, and when he arrived in Australia in the plane, he said, it caused quite a stir. He asked to meet with Dixon and told him if Qantas would return his 1960s plane to its original colors, he would fly around the world to promote the airline.
The movie promotion took place shortly before the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
After the attacks, he and Dixon decided to broaden the scope of his promise to promote not just Qantas, but the airline industry and flying, in general, Travolta said.
"Personally, I can not think of a better ambassador for Qantas than John," Dixon said.
So, in his freshly painted 707 dubbed the "Jett Clipper Ella," on July 1, Travolta will take to the air from Los Angeles and head to Auckland, New Zealand to begin the 10-nation "Spirit of Friendship" tour.
Other destinations will include Sydney, Melbourne and Perth in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, London, Rome, Paris, Frankfurt and New York.
From the Drudge Report
Travolta Buys 440-seat Jumbo Jet
Sat Mar 23 2002 18:00:26 ET
Hollywood legend JOHN TRAVOLTA has spent over $84 million on a 440-seat jumbo jet, according to reports.
The star will use the Boeing 747 to fly to film premieres around the world.
His spokesman says: "He believes this investment will save him loads of time over the next few years and of course he gets to choose who gets on board with him."
The 47-year-old - who bought the plane from Australian airline QANTAS