Dave Knibb/SEATTLE Impulse Airlines is setting the pace for Australian start-ups. Not only is it on track to launch its low-fare jet service ahead of Virgin, but it has already complained twice to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) about alleged predatory conduct by Qantas Airways.

Impulse aims to operate single-class, high-frequency Boeing 717 services - as many as 14 daily flights - with all seats sold at fares 30-50% below those charged by Qantas and Ansett.

Impulse has operated turboprops for years on Australian regional routes. Before December 1992, the Sydney, New South Wales-based carrier was known as Oxley Airlines. It decided to move up to jets after ending an alliance with Ansett and learning that New South Wales planned to deregulate air service on higher density routes. That action took effect in March.

With three 717s leased from Bavaria International Aircraft Leasing and two from Pembroke Capital, Impulse will beat Virgin Blue into the skies by at least a month.

Virgin Blue, the brand name for Virgin's Australian start-up, will not be flying until at least July, and perhaps as late as just before the Sydney Olympics in September. Both new entrants say they are close to gaining operating approvals.

A showdown between start-ups and incumbents has seemed likely since Impulse and Virgin unveiled their plans. Qantas and Ansett have enjoyed a domestic duopoly since their last challenger failed in 1993. Australian flag carrier Qantas warns that it is "battle ready" for these newcomers.

Sparks have flown, resulting in two complaints by Impulse over what it calls predatory conduct by Qantas. One stems from a Qantas decision to triple frequencies and upgrade from turboprops to British Aerospace BAe 146 jets on the Newcastle-Melbourne route.

According to Impulse, this is a 400% annual jump in capacity, forcing it to suspend five daily flights on that route. Qantas denies any anti-competitive aim, saying passenger demand justifies the extra capacity.

The other flare-up has occurred at Canberra Airport, where Qantas decided to abandon common passenger facilities and refuse to pay its A$200,000 ($116,000) share for them.

The airport is accusing Qantas of trying to intimidate anyone who offers terminal space to Impulse. Again, Impulse has asked national regulator ACCC to intervene.

Services offered by Impulse (Boeing 717-200s)


Start date

Advertised price (one way)



A$139 ($80.8)



A$119 ($69.2)



A$149 ($86.6)

Source: Airline Business