Paul Phelan/CAIRNS

Ansett Australia is aiming to define its fleet development plan by the end of this year. It will decide on a new widebody type to serve domestic trunk and Asian routes and on the rationalisation of the carrier's domestic narrowbody fleet.

Executive chairman Rod Eddington says: "I would like to address that this year, so we make an in-principle decision on the type of aircraft Ansett would purchase in coming years to replace its domestic fleet."

Ansett's domestic narrowbody fleet comprises 42 aircraft - 20 Airbus A320s and 22 Boeing 737-300s - which are supplemented on trunk routes by nine Boeing 767-200s. The airline's next-generation domestic fleet is likely to be all-Boeing or all-Airbus, with the current mixed fleet incurring a significant cost penalty. Ansett's former ad hoc approach to fleet planning has contributed to a poor financial performance, says Eddington.

He also confirms the carrier's interest in expanding into transpacific operations. Viable city pairs other than Sydney-Los Angeles are available, but a decision to launch services would depend on "a strong business case and shareholder approval". A decision on a new widebody type, likely to be the Airbus A330, Boeing 767 or Boeing 777, would be crucial to accommodate the airline's ambitions to introduce transpacific operations. A new widebody type would allow Ansett to reallocate its 747-400s, initially destined to replace 747-300s on Asian routes from this August/September, to new Australia-USA or Australia-Europe services.

Meanwhile, Ansett half-owner Air New Zealand (ANZ) has not disclosed whether it will exercise its rights to match Singapore Airlines' (SIA) A$500 million ($317 million) offer for News Corporation's half share in Ansett. SIA agreed to purchase the stake last month (Flight International, 31 March-6 April). Mechanisms contained in a confidential agreement between News Corporation and ANZ specify that, once a firm offer is made, ANZ has 30 working days to match the offer. News Corporation has yet to receive a firm offer and does not expect one until SIA has completed due diligence studies.

Source: Flight International