Ansett Australia is to restructure its regional operations in a move which will see subsidiary Kendell Airlines acquiring a fleet of 50-seat regional jets. Meanwhile, a decision on Ansett's long-term route and fleet strategy is expected by the year-end.

Kendell is finalising a deal for 12 50-seat jets, plus additional options, and expects to sign an order for either the Embraer RJ-145 or Bombardier CRJ-200 in the next few weeks. The airline is preparing to take over the loss-making Ansett regional routes on Australia's eastern seaboard which have cost the airline A$55 million ($29.5 million) over the past year. Deliveries will begin by November 1999, with the aircraft replacing Ansett British Aerospace 146s, as Ansett progressively withdraws from the routes up to 2001.

Kendell operates 16 Saab 340s and seven Fairchild Dornier Metro 23s and will use the regional jet options if it moves into other under-performing Ansett routes.

Ansett executive chairman Rod Eddington, speaking in Melbourne on 16 September, said that approval in principle has now been given to the A$300 million Kendell purchase.

The move, which will shed about 320 Ansett jobs, was the latest component of a programme of over 70 identified projects to be implemented in the group's business recovery programme .

Eddington warns that although Ansett BAe 146 operations in Western Australia and Queensland are now showing improved returns, they could also be transferred to Ansett-owned Skywest Airlines in Western Australia, or in Queensland to privately owned affiliate Flightwest Airlines if the progress does not continue. Eddington says other recovery projects are likely soon to result in a decision to rationalise the group's short-haul domestic fleet and standardise on either Boeing or Airbus Industrie as a single supplier, integrate maintenance facilities between Ansett and half-owner Air New Zealand and redefine the destiny of Ansett International.

Ansett will also suspend its Shanghai route, initiate a twice weekly Sydney-Fiji service and boost services to Bali, Indonesia.

The airline is also finalising the strategy for its international network, which is now served by Boeing 747-300s and Boeing 767s. "We're taking a long and hard look about where Ansett International's going," says Eddington.

"Where [Ansett] flies, and what sort of aircraft it flies, are things that will be announced towards the end of this year," he adds.

Source: Flight International