Efforts are afoot to convince Singapore Airlines (SIA) to take a managerial or advisory role in the running of Ansett Australian Airlines. Administrators have taken the initiative as the beleaguered Australian carrier continues token operations under the name Ansett 2.

Ansett went into administration in September after Air New Zealand was forced to abandon it to save itself. Under the "Kick-Start" scheme, administrators have relaunched Ansett with a fleet of 11 Airbus A320s. The Australian Government is guaranteeing ticket sales for flights until 31 January inclusive. Their hope is to sell what remains of the airline as a single going concern rather than piecemeal.

SIA is not among the five bidders looking to buy Ansett, but two of them have approached SIA about backing their proposals. This has prompted Victoria Premier Steve Bracks to fly to Singapore to encourage SIA's involvement. Victoria was the site of Ansett's headquarters.

Australian transport minister John Anderson has since added his endorsement to the plan. An SIA management team has been meeting with Ansett's administrators.

SIA's options range from providing one-off advice on a new business plan, through a long-term role in management, to the purchase of an equity stake. The Star Alliance is keen for SIA to maintain its links with Ansett to prevent Australia becoming a oneworld fiefdom under Qantas, which has been ramping up domestic capacity following its rival's collapse. It has turned some international flights over to alliance partners so it can redeploy aircraft back in Australia. It is additionally wet-leasing three Boeing 767s from Air Canada to fly the Tasman between Australia and New Zealand so it can divert more of its own 767s to domestic flights.

Virgin Blue is also trying to accelerate delivery of new Boeing jets and bring in aircraft from affiliate carriers in Europe. In addition, it has retained financial consultants to advise it on a possible initial public offering.

Qantas defends its growth as a necessary response to the vacuum caused by Ansett's collapse. Others view its motives less charitably. Since Ansett's fall, Qantas has boosted its share of the domestic market from 54% to 90%.

National elections on 10 November could affect Ansett's future. The Australian Government has been reluctant to provide direct aid for Ansett. The opposition says it would use proceeds from the sale of Sydney airport to save the 65-year-old airline.

Source: Airline Business