News: Ansett up and away in a week

Old Feb 16, 02, 7:58 am
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News: Ansett up and away in a week

Ansett up and away in a week
Neale Maynard and Ian Royall

ANSETT is expected to be under new ownership by as early as next Friday after a major breakthrough which could see it cut costs by sharing terminals with other airlines.

The marathon Ansett sale process entered the home straight yesterday after Sydney Airport Corporation Ltd and Tesna Holdings reached agreement in principle on Ansett's Sydney terminal lease.

SACL will transfer the Ansett lease from the airline's administrators to Lindsay Fox and Solomon Lew's Tesna Holdings, provided Tesna allows other airlines to access unused parts of the facility.

Tesna must also continue to operate a domestic airline ? a condition designed to preclude Mr Fox and Mr Lew from selling Ansett's airline business and becoming airport landlords.

While Tesna has yet to finalise terminal leases at other capital cities and is still to complete the transfer of Ansett's aircraft leases, it is understood Tesna's Ansett could take to the skies by as early as Friday.

The airline's return will be welcomed by tourism operators, particularly in Queensland where businesses were hard hit by its collapse.

But before Tesna can take over, Ansett's administrators, Andersen, will on Tuesday place final sale documents before the Federal Court.

Ansett's aircraft also need to be transferred from the administrators to Tesna as do terminal leases at capital city airports outside Sydney.

It is understood one option would be for the administrators to temporarily sub-lease planes to Tesna until permanent lease arrangements could be finalised. Tesna also needs to give the Civil Aviation Safety Authority four to five days notice of its intended launch date.

Industry sources speculated that the Sydney lease agreement could ultimately see planes owned by Virgin Blue and other carriers lining up beside Ansett jets ? provided Tesna can strike the right deal.

Virgin Blue is understood to have been in talks with Ansett this week about access to the Sydney terminal. Virgin would only say yesterday talks were continuing.

For Tesna, sub-leasing to Virgin would help reduce Ansett's losses ? at least $6 million a week ? as it tries to return to profitability.

Ansett administrators Mark Korda and Mark Mentha said passenger numbers were improving with load factors yesterday higher than 80 per cent on the Sydney-Melbourne route.

It is understood, however, that Ansett's weekend loads have been boosted by low-fare leisure travellers on short trips interstate.

Under a separate proposal to Tesna by Brisbane Airport Corporation, Ansett's Brisbane domestic terminal would also be made available to Ansett, Virgin and other airlines, with Ansett's costs much less than if it leased the entire terminal. Tesna has yet to respond to BAC's proposal.

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Greg Combet indicated yesterday that the number of full-time jobs in the revamped carrier could be fewer than 3000.

"A lot of people will be working part-time in the ramp-up phase of the airline," Mr Combet said.
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