Purchasers plan to buy 30 A320s and have been in talks over tie-up with Virgin

Ansett's prospects of a return to full flying status took an upturn last week as its administrators declared they would continue trading up to a 28 February deadline which they described as "absolute". The airline also announced that it plans to buy 30 Airbus A320 family aircraft to be phased in during the second half of the year.

Administrators Mark Corda and Mark Mentha confirm Ansett has been losing A$6 million a week ($3.2 million), but insist that continued trading and a sale before the deadline will give creditors a better outcome than liquidation.

The pair had sought a court ruling giving them indemnity against being sued by creditors for continuing losses, but this was rejected last week. Mentha, however, says the decision does not preclude their right to continue flying the airline at a loss while sale details are finalised, and that this would provide the best outcome for creditors.

Tesna, the Ansett purchase vehicle of Australian businessmen Solomon Lew and Lindsay Fox, gained impetus when it closed a critical loop on 15 February by securing Sydney airport terminal leases and signing a deal with the airport covering access of other airlines to its surplus terminal space.

Tesna has also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Airbus for 30 A320s and A321s with an option on 10 more. Deliveries will begin in the second half of the year. Airbus will provide all training and field service support in Australia as part of the package.

Separately, the pair have held talks in London with Virgin chief Sir Richard Branson over a possible but undisclosed link-up between the two airlines. Branson has repeatedly insisted the Virgin brand would remain in Australia, while Fox and Lew want to trade under the Ansett brand. Virgin Blue's David Huttner denies speculation that the airline could be sold to Tesna, and has branded talk of a possible merger as "speculation".

Unfinished business to be undertaken in the next two weeks includes the finalisation of airport leases at Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth and provincial airports.

Source: Flight International