Air New Zealand (ANZ) has set a 30 June target date to complete its stalled NZ$350 million ($241 million) buy-out of TNT's 50% stake in Ansett. In April, the New Zealand Commerce Commission blocked ANZ's bid because it would have resulted in the carrier also acquiring 50% of domestic competitor Ansett New Zealand.

ANZ managing director Jim McCrea said in Auckland on 29 April that he is "confident" that the Commission will approve an application from 50% Ansett shareholder News Corporation to take total ownership of Ansett New Zealand. A green light for the new formula would remove the biggest remaining hurdle to the acquisition.

McCrea says: "If News Corporation can satisfy the Commission that it can take owner- ship of Ansett NZ, then the impediments have been removed. The detriments that are perceived disappear, and there are nothing but benefits."

McCrea emphasises, however, that the carrier has alternative options should the Commission reject the application, saying: "If we can't make this investment, we will do something else, but I'm confident the deal will go through."

ANZ was unveiling a $50 million product re-launch, including the first full livery change in 23 years; complete interior refurbishment, with extended seat-pitch in economy and business class; and upgraded cabin-entertainment and service.

The initiative closely follows interior upgrades by Ansett and Qantas, which focus on business travellers and the carrier's long-haul leisure market. Business- class seat pitch is increased to 1,250mm, with personal in-seat videos added, and economy pitch to 850mm, with completely new seats. First-class service will be retained only on long-haul Boeing 747s, serving the routes from Auckland and Sydney through the USA to Europe.

The ANZ managing director rules out an early update of the domestic Boeing 737-200 fleet, saying: "We have some of the youngest 737-200s and, from an operational point of view we have no problems."

Source: Flight International