MIAMI – Today in Aviation, Ansett Australia (AN) ceased operations in 2001. The iconic airline, which could trace its history back to 1935, had been struggling financially since the early 1990s.

Prior to Australian deregulation in 1990, aviation in the county was heavily regulated. Just two carriers – Ansett and Qantas (QF) had the rights to operate the majority of routes. In an attempt to stay ahead of its rivals, AN began to expand its network internationally to South Asia.

It then added the Boeing 747-300 in August 1994 and the -400, dubbed the Ansett ‘Spaceship’ in April 1999. In March 1999, AN also became a member of Star Alliance. Management also paid millions of dollars to be awarded the title of the official airline of the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Ansett added the Boeing 747-400 to its fleet and would go on to operate four of the type, all leased from Singapore Airlines. (Photo: By Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland – 70cc – Ansett Australia Boeing 747-412; VH-ANA@SYD;04.09.1999, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26641743)

Air New Zealand Takeover


In February 2000, Air New Zealand (NZ), which already controlled 50% of the struggling airline, purchased the remaining shares. NZ believed they could turn around Ansett’s fortunes and began to aggressively cut costs.

But AN had an incredibly high-cost base and an aging fleet. Indeed the fleet issues came to a head in December 2000 when a number of its Boeing 767s were grounded due to maintenance irregularities. The issues continued well in to 2001, with the country’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) grounding 10 of its 11 767s. 

VH-RMD was the first Boeing 767 to join the AN fleet in May 1983. (Photo: Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Air New Zealand could not sustain these losses, estimated at US$1.3m per day, and placed the carrier into voluntary administration. In October 2001 Ansett MK. II was born in a vain attempt to revive the airline. Sadly it too folded just five months later on March 4, 2002.


Featured image: One of Ansett’s biggest issues was its varied and aging fleet including the Airbus A320, BAe 146, and Boeing 737, 747, and 767. (Photo: Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)