The new chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Graeme Samuel, last week dealt a blow to Air New Zealand and Qantas by saying that the commission's final decision on the airlines' alliance is unlikely to be different from the draft decision rejecting the deal.

Samuel said a positive decision was unlikely based on competition grounds. The potential airline partners had hoped Samuel would look more favourably on the alliance than his predecessor, Allan Fels, who attacked the proposed deal as being anti-competitive and not in the public interest in a draft determination in April. Transport minister John Anderson has called for a quick decision on the deal.

Samuel's comments came as Qantas revealed the impact of the SARS virus and the war in Iraq had on travel. International traffic in May dropped 18.7% compared with a year ago on capacity down 11.6%. Revenue seat factor for the month was 69.8% - 6.1 percentage points down on May 2002.

Source: Flight International