Paul Phelan/CAIRNS

The Australasian airline market has confirmed its return to comparatively good health, with the region's three majors - Qantas, Air New Zealand (ANZ) and Ansett Australia - all reporting major improvements in performance for the financial year ended 30 June.

The three are all confident of further gains over the next 12 months as the Asia-Pacific economy continues its bounce back and local markets are boosted by increased traffic from the Millennium celebrations, the Americas Cup yacht race, scheduled to be staged in Auckland, and in the run-up to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

ANZ, which owns 50% of Ansett, will continue to pursue plans to take full control of the Australian airline, according to chairman Sir Selwyn Cushing, following Ansett's announcement of a better-than-expected A$140.8 million ($90.8 million) pre-tax operating profit for 1998/9.

That result and the improving market should push up the price ANZ will have to pay News Corporation for its 50% Ansett stake in the wake of Singapore Airlines' aborted bid.

Ansett executive chairman Rod Eddington says the improvement stemmed from increased sales, improved efficiencies and firm cost controls. The airline has seen its profit margin improve from break-even in 1997, through 0.8% in 1998 to 4.6% in the past year - although Eddington is targeting "10% of turnover".

ANZ's result, announced simultaneously with the Ansett figures, represents a near 50% improvement on the previous year.

The New Zealand carrier reports a significant lift in inbound traffic, with its Star Alliance membership also boosting its global business.

Source: Flight International