As of today, September 13th 2001, Ansett Australia
has been placed into voluntary administration
In recent days, Ansett has been suffering greatly. Two Civil Aviation and Safety Authority probes in the last 9 months which resulted in several planes being grounded for days at a time, both occurring at the two peak times for holiday travel: Christmas and Easter.
This week, the airline was revealed to have massive operating losses: on the order of $1.3 million dollars per day.
Air New Zealand, the owners of Ansett Australia, approached the New Zealand and Australian governments in the hope of gathering funds for a bailout of the ailing airline. Both governments declined to interfere.
Qantas was approached by the Australian government and asked to consider buying Ansett: special arrangements with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission had to be made to allow the buyout. The implications of Qantas (who have a 49% share of Australian air traffic) buying out Ansett (who has a 37% share) were enormous. The ACCC had to grant special permission to allow this to go ahead, since it would monopolise Qantas' position in the domestic industry. Permission was granted on the basis that a monopoly was better than the folding of the second largest airline in Australia, and the resulting loss of 16,000 jobs.
Qantas, however, declined. Amongst their reasons were the problem of finding one billion dollars of capital for redundancy packages of 9000 Ansett staff who occupied existing positions within Qantas, and the need to upgrade Ansetts aging fleet.
And at the time of writing this, I've been informed by some news sources that Ansett may ground its planes within the hour. Memos circulated amongst Qantas staff have stated that Ansett tickets are no longer to be honoured, on the grounds that payment is not likely to be forthcoming.
Working for Qantas, I have to say that this is a pretty bleak day for the airline industry within Australia. Contrary to what most people think, the staff within Qantas are far from happy that their major competitor may no longer exist. The huge uncertainty that recent events have generated within the airline industry and the world in general have made people wary of massive change like this. The terrorist attacks in the US, as well as being horrific, savage events, will have badly hurt both American Airlines and United Airlines. Neither company could easily afford the loss of two jets, and the psychological impact of those particular losses is immense.
And now, it looks like Ansett will most likely go under. It might survive, perhaps in a limited form. It might even rebound: they may find some backing which will lift it back up to its earlier status. I hope so. The rivalry between Qantas and Ansett may have been long-lasting, but none would call it bitter. Not in a land that supports the underdog, something which Ansett has definately become now.
It's offical. Ansett is dead. Their planes were grounded early Friday morning, and the terminals locked. Staff and passengers alike were not informed, and the airports were chaotic with stranded travellers and aircrew trying to get home. I manage the Qantas webservers, and yesterday was more than three times the highest load we've ever seen.
Ansett Mk2 has been flying now for a few weeks: a cut back version of the original Ansett, offering cheap fares and no-frills service. They are by no means restored to their former glory, and are only staying afloat through Government financing. With the Australian Federal election coming up next month, it will be very interesting to see if Ansett survive past that point in any form. The Government backing is due to run out the week of the elections.