Paul Phelan/CAIRNS

Qantas is now considering at least three options for entry into the New Zealand domestic market. Following Air New Zealand's (ANZ) acquisition of a 50% stake in competitor Ansett Australia, the two national carriers have severed all commercial links, leaving Qantas without an adequate presence on domestic routes in New Zealand.

The Qantas/British Airways alliance is known to be concerned that ANZ and its subsidiaries now account for up to 70% of the domestic passenger market, worth an estimated NZ$660million ($430 million) a year. Analysts say that Qantas' first option is direct acquisition of Ansett New Zealand, which now flies ten British Aerospace 146s and four Bombardier Dash 8s, with a link carrier operating five Embraer Bandeirantes to smaller regional destinations.

Ansett NZ is wholly owned by News Corporation, an arrangement reached to meet New Zealand's competition concerns over the deal which allowed ANZ to acquire half of Ansett Australia. Such an arrangement would provide Qantas with instant airport infrastructure, and an established domestic market upon which to build competition for ANZ.

A second strategy under consideration for Qantas is direct entry into the New Zealand market, in competition with both ANZ's domestic arm and Ansett NZ - an option which Qantas may retain to strengthen its hand over discussions on price with News Corporation.

Qantas says that it could accommodate much of its required New Zealand presence by increasing narrowbody trans-Tasman services, both to position aircraft and enhance service frequency. It would then operate the aircraft on New Zealand domestic services.

The third available strategy is to sponsor an arms-length "link carrier" to establish a New Zealand network. One candidate is Adelaide-based National Jet Systems, which operates 13 BAe146s on the carrier's Australian regional network. Qantas also wholly owns three regional airlines in eastern Australia, operating a large fleet of BAe146s and Dash 8s.

Source: Flight International