The Collapse of the Australia Airline: Ansett Australia – What Really Happened?

Ansett Australia (Ansett) wasn’t just a hugely successful domestic and national airline company; it also had a string of ancillary business that included airport lounge services, a traveler’s rewards program company, short-distance shuttle flight services and a parts and services company.

After 66 years and 11 days of flying Australians (and other nationals) around the country and to international destinations, Ansett Australia (Ansett) finally hit turbulence in 2001 and crash landed.


In the 1930’s, Sir Reginald Miles Ansett was the owner of a hugely successful road transport business, RegAnsett. The company was so successful that its operations were perceived as a threat to the existence of state-owned Victorian Railways.

The State government reacted with legislation to put road transportation companies out of business, and Ansett countered by establishing Ansett Airways Pty. Ltd. in 1935 – because airlines were the purview of the national government with states having no control over them.

The inaugural route was between Hamilton and Melbourne. In 1937, Ansett was converted into a publicly traded corporation.

1940’s, 50’sand 60’s – THE HIATUS

The advent of WW II in the 1940’s saw Ansett suspend domestic commercial operations in favour of the more lucrative war-time contracts with the United States Air Force. During this hiatus, Australian National Airways (ANA) and Trans Australia Airlines (TAA) were gradually battling for market share, including Ansett’s former domain.

When ANA collapsed and filed for bankruptcy in the late 1950’s, the then Menzies Liberal government encouraged Ansett to take over its operations in a buyout worth 3.3m £. As a result, a new entity called Ansett-ANA emerged in 1957.


Although Ansett-ANA was not a dominant player in the Australian airline industry, it continued to expand, adding a flying boat service between Sydney’s Rose Bay and Lord Howe Island in 1970. By the mid-late 1970’s the company had also gradually started adding international routes to its roster.

In 1979 however, as the airline business started heating up, Reginald Ansett was forced to relinquish ownership of his airline company and cede control to a consortium of TNT (the world famous transportation giant) and News Corporation (NewsCorp owned by Rupert Murdoch).


During the 1980’s Ansett soon became a dominant player in the Australian skies, with Qantas the only other major competitor. In 2000, the company scored a bit of a PR victory by becoming the official airline for the Sydney Olympics.

In February of 2000, NewsCorp sold its stake in Ansett-ANA, thereby granting full control of the company to Air New Zealand, who already owned a 50% stake in the airline.


During the 1980’s, a number of Ansett-ANA’s investments were performing poorly. America West Airlines, the US airline in which the company had a stake, barely survived after filing for bankruptcy. The company’s Hamilton Island resort went into receivership. And analysts believe that the price paid to secure the Sydney 2000 Olympic deal wasn’t a wise investment.

It was also during this time that Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Australia (Virgin Blue) airline was rising as a fierce competitor to other Australian airlines. This added competitive challenge, coupled with an aging fleet that racked up huge maintenance costs, meant that Ansett-ANA would not survive much longer.

In 2001, the company was placed under voluntary administration with an announcement a year later that it was ceasing operations.

The last Ansett-ANA flight was on March 4th, 2002.

Find out more friendly tips on Melbourne Airline and Travel here.

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