Qantas Airways and Ansett Airlines have both sold most of their remaining interests in island resorts, thereby signalling a return to core operations.

'It's a classic case of sticking to your knitting,' explains James Strong, managing director of Qantas. 'I've never been convinced that Qantas could do as good a job as others at running a resort.'

Qantas sold three of its Great Barrier Reef resorts last year. With the latest sale of its Great Keppel Island resort to a group of Queensland investors, Qantas now only retains a leasehold interest in Lizard Island, a luxury resort off the northeast coast of Australia. Qantas inherited all these resorts from Australian Airlines, which it acquired in 1992.

Strong denies these sales represent any panic disposal during hard times. 'We would have done this anyway,' he insists. 'We have worked on these sales for several years.' As a result of the sales, Qantas subsidiary Sunstate Airlines is disposing of five Twin Otters it used to ferry passengers to these islands.

Ansett Australia has also sold its Hayman Island resort and its half interest in Hamilton Island airport to an Australian hotel group for A$59 million (US$36.5 million). One third of the price covers Ansett's half interest in the airport - a source of controversy for many years. The private airport was built and jointly owned by Ansett and earlier owners of the Hamilton island resort. Five years ago Australian Airlines, then the domestic arm of Qantas, filed a lawsuit claiming Ansett's monopoly on use of the airport violated Australia's trade practices act. The suit was later dropped without a result.

Source: Airline Business