Air Transport World

Ansett is trying to become Australia's global domestic airline.

Ansett is trying to become Australia's global domestic airline

If someone asked you five years ago about Ansett Airlines, you probably would have said, "Oh yeah, one of the two Australian domestic carriers.' It carries about five million passengers a year, about the size of Frontier Airlines in America, or a little smaller than Air Inter in Europe. It competes with Trans Australia Airlines, TAA, or something like that. That is probably what you would have said five years ago. Or you might have said something about Ansett being the privately owned Australian domestic that competes with the government airline, TAA. Ansett's current General Manager, Ted Forrester, puts it a little differently. "A tea and bicky airline, that's what we were back then,' he says.

Many things have happened at Ansett since 1980. It is no longer a tea and bicky airline. Ansett celebrated its 50th anniversary a few months ago, and the airline has probably undergone as much change in the past five years as it had in its first 45. It was founded and developed largely by Sir Reginald Ansett, one of the world's true airline pioneers who held the reins until 1980. He began operations Feb. 17, 1936 flying six passengers from Hamilton, Victoria to Melbourne's Essendon airfield in a single-engine Fokker Universal.

Perhaps the biggest single splurge in Ansett's development occurred in 1957 when Sir Reginald bought financially troubled Australia National Airways, an airline many times the size of his. The government airline, TAA, was already in existence at the time, and the two emerged over the years as the two airlines in Australia's two-airline domestic system.

In 1980, in his final years, Sir Reginald turned over control of Ansett to its current co-owners, media magnate Rupert Murdoch, who presides over his giant international News Corporation and Sir Peter Abeles who presides over Thomas Nationwide Transport (TNT), another huge international conglomerate. Together they preside over the fortunes of Ansett Airlines as joint chairmen and managing directors of Ansett Transport Industries (ATI), the holding company established by Sir Reginald Ansett. He too was a man of diverse interests making Ansett Airlines much more than simply an airline. It is now all run by Murdoch and Abeles.

Ansett always diversified

With people like Murdoch and Abeles at the helm, it is not surprising that Ansett Airlines is taking on the appearance of a multi-faceted organization with global aspirations.

Interestingly, Ansett Airlines, under Sir Reginald's ATI, was very diversified before the two tycoons bought it (see organization chart). Most of the divisions under ATI were in place before the change in ownership, and as you can see, Ansett was into many things from hotels, resorts and restaurants, on the one hand, to credit, finance and technology on the other. Ansett also has been active in ground transport and manufacturing. Many of these have been developed further under the Murdoch and Abeles management. For example, ATI is spending about U.S.$84 million expanding the Hayman Island resort near the Great Barrier Reef, a resort complex that Sir Reginald opened in 1950. …

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