Australian Airlines name revived to assume some of the flag carrier's unprofitable routes

Qantas is seeking to launch its planned low-cost international subsidiary in the second half of next year using the name Australian Airlines. The move is part of a wider strategy to prepare the carrier for the forecast global business downturn and reposition it for a greater market share.

The carrier announced on 30 August that Denis Adams, Qantas' executive general manager marketing, would head the new airline, which would begin flying initially into Asia from multiple Australian gateways.

Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon says the new carrier will take over some unprofitable Qantas routes, from which the airline intended to withdraw over the next six months. It will also operate on routes suspended by Qantas over recent years, such as to Seoul in South Korea, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Shanghai in China.

Adams will be joined by a small team from Qantas to finalise a submission to its board and begin initial preparations for the start-up.

"We will work with the relevant authorities to obtain an airline operating certificate, as well as approvals for traffic rights and Australian Airlines' route structure," Dixon says.

"We are very excited about the opportunities offered by this new airline, which would not be possible under the existing Qantas cost structure."

Details of fleet, livery and Australian Airlines' headquarters will be announced in coming months, but destinations are likely to include Fukuoka, Ho Chi Minh City, Kuala Lumpur, Sapporo, Seoul, Shanghai and Taipei. Its fleet will probably comprise two-class Boeing 767s.

The launch is expected to cause a pilot drain on European, Middle East and Asian carriers employing significant numbers of airline pilots qualified to work in Australia. Dixon says that studies have already identified an adequate supply of pilots.

"All the pilots and all the ground staff would be Australian," he says. "We may in some places use flight attendants to get the cultural balance, but there's no intention to try and make this an airline that will be staffed from overseas."

Qantas has held the right to the Australian Airlines name since it merged with a domestic carrier of that name in 1993.

Source: Flight International