Paul Phelan/CAIRNS

A week-long grounding of Ansett Australia's 10 Boeing 767-200s has driven Ansett Australia to announce it will begin a fleet upgrade by October with at least four 767-300s and two additional 737-300s.

Faced with a negative public reaction to the grounding, a re-launch of the airline, with new destinations, products and terminal facilities and 200-320 more maintenance workers, is also planned, says Gary Toomey, chief executive of parent Air New Zealand (ANZ).

Ansett's 767-200s were grounded in mid-April by Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) following a maintenance oversight (Flight International, 17-23 April). On 20 April CASA began clearing the 767s to re-enter service, but their replacement is now part of a package prepared to convince CASA that it should not withdraw the airline's operating certificate and boost the airline's image.

Toomey has not said how the fleet upgrade, estimated to cost up to $5 billion, will be funded. However, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark is now under pressure from ANZ Chairman Sir Selwyn Cushing and 25% ANZ stakeholder Singapore Airlines (SIA) to lift foreign ownership restrictions, allowing SIA to lift its stake to 40%, which would facilitate capital raising for the upgrade.

During the grounding, Ansett has spent about NZ$300,000 ($122,000) per day leasing aircraft from Air Canada, Air New Zealand, Qantas and SIA and buying capacity from rivals Virgin Blue and Impulse Airlines. Analysts suggest that the grounding over the Easter holiday could slash up to $100 million from ANZ's bottom line.

Source: Flight International