The Asian crisis is forcing Qantas and Air New Zealand to shift capacity out of Asia and into a face-off closer to home.

Both airlines withdrew from Korea in January; Qantas has now announced cutbacks to Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia. Air New Zealand retreated from these markets last year.

'What's happened with Asia will make us refocus,' says Paul Donovan, Qantas regional manager for New Zealand and the South Pacific. 'We'll be looking at all the bilaterals and unused beyond rights we've got. [Some of] the capacity coming out of Asia, we'll put put on the Tasman.'

Jim McCrea, Air New Zealand's chief executive, also predicts that Air New Zealand will reduce its Asian presence and shift some capacity into Australia-New Zealand.

Both carriers are reviewing use of their 767s and 747s, but there is also a move toward more frequent flights with smaller aircraft. Qantas already flies 737s to Wellington. Last year it added six weekly 737s to Auckland and it plans more later this year.

McCrea is not disclosing what aircraft he will add. Air New Zealand has deferred a 737 order while a joint Air New Zealand-Ansett committee is reviewing fleet commonality and joint purchase options.

Qantas and Air New Zealand have also added nonstops from each other's base to the US. Qantas flies daily from Auckland and Air New Zealand operates six weekly Los Angeles services from Sydney. It is awaiting approval to codeshare with Singapore Airlines from Australia to Europe.

* British Airways has also withdrawn from Seoul, and will offer connections via Hong Kong and Tokyo with Asiana.

David Knibb

Source: Airline Business