Ansett - A Brief History
|The name Ansett Airways Pty Limited was registered in late 1935. Following the purchase of a Fokker Universal monoplane for the sum of 1000 Pounds, Reg Ansett's fledgling Airline commenced operations on 17 February 1936, when his Fokker aircraft took of from Hamilton for its inaugural flight to Melbourne, carrying a full complement of 6 passengers plus the General Manager Mr Reg Ansett, together with the pilot of the inaugural service Vern Cerche. Capt. Vern Cerche was to go on and later fly jet aircraft for Ansett –ANA after their arrival in Australian skies from 1964 onwards.|
The name Ansett Airways Pty Limited was registered in late 1935. Following the purchase of a Fokker Universal monoplane for the sum of 1000 Pounds, Reg Ansett's fledgling Airline commenced operations on 17 February 1936, when his Fokker aircraft took of from Hamilton for its inaugural flight to Melbourne, carrying a full complement of 6 passengers plus the General Manager Mr Reg Ansett, together with the pilot of the inaugural service Vern Cerche. Capt. Vern Cerche was to go on and later fly jet aircraft for Ansett –ANA after their arrival in Australian skies from 1964 onwards.
This began what was to become an Australian success story, one which would over the years touch the lives of many Australians, both passengers, and loyal staff members, many of whom spent more than half of their life working for the company.
During 1942 as the situation with which Australia found itself in World War Two became increasingly worse, and Darwin came under attack from the Japanese, Ansett suspended all of its scheduled services, with the exception of the Hamilton – Melbourne service. It devoted all of its resources towards meeting the requirements of the American military personnel. This move allowed Australian National Airways, its main rival, to take on the most profitable Ansett route, that between Adelaide and Sydney, together with the pick of its other routes. It was a decision which caused the airline some chagrin at war's end. ANA refused to give back the routes which it had taken over, and Ansett took some time, in convincing the Department of Civil Aviation, that it should be allowed to recommence operations over its pre 1942 routes.
Ansett Transport Industries, as the company was now known, took over Australian National Airways on 23 August 1957. Prior to this however, Ansett became what was probably Australia's first discount, no frills airline. In the late 1940's, when both ANA and TAA, were applying to the Government to increase fares, Ansett adopted a different stance, by opting to increase seating capacity, while at the same time, reducing cabin service. So much for the latter day Compass being regarded as the start of cheaper, discount fares for the travelling Australian public. After the take over of ANA, the airline was now to be known as Ansett-ANA. Ansett had acquired shares in Butler Air Transport, as a result of the ANA takeover. This allowed Ansett to gain a controlling interest on the BAT board in 1958, and following a couple of untidy squirmishes, with this controlling interest, Reg Ansett duly completed the takeover of BAT the same year. The company name of Butler Air Transport remained until late 1958, when it was altered to that of Airlines of New South Wales.
With the acquiring of Butler, who had a majority shareholding in Queensland Airlines, Ansett now had a controlling interest in this airline as well, and as such a foothold in regional Queensland. Queensland Airlines continued to carry on operations under that name, until the mid 1960's, when it was then absorbed into the Ansett –ANA structure.
By the end of 1959, Ansett had gained control of Guinea Airways, which had originally been a pioneer of airline services in the Papua-New Guinea highlands. The Guinea Airways board had decided back in 1936 to commence services on mainland Australia. As their head office was in Adelaide, they elected to operate between Adelaide and Darwin which to this time was without any recognised air service between the southern state and Darwin. A weekly service using a Lockheed L10 began on the 22 February 1937. This was followed by an Adelaide to Sydney service using Lockheed Electras, operating in competition with ANA and Ansett Airways. Commencing in April 1939, Guinea Airways began services throughout South Australia to Port Lincoln, Cowell, Cleve, and Kingscote. In September 1939, the airline commenced services between Adelaide and Whyalla.
With the commencement of services by TAA, having been set up by the then Labor Federal Government, Guinea Airways lost its profitable Adelaide Darwin service and was soon left with only regional services in South Australia. It had survived two takeover attempts by ANA in 1945, however by the end of that year, the airline had succumbed to the overtures from ANA, and while not actually having been taken over as such, it had become more or less a subsidiary of ANA. This resulted due to an agreement with ANA to take control of all Guinea Airways aircraft, Flight crewing, and also maintenance facilities. This move had been made without approval given by the Guinea Airlines shareholders.
After the takeover of ANA by Ansett in 1957, Guinea Airways maintained the previous arrangement until the following year when Butler Air Transport was also taken over by ATI. This takeover allowed Ansett-ANA to operate services from Sydney to Adelaide via Broken Hill, using Vickers Viscount Aircraft, which had previously been a part of the Butler fleet. This move put them into direct competition with Guinea Airways over the Broken Hill – Adelaide sector. The result of this confrontation, forced Guinea Airways to transfer their allegiance to TAA.
Reg Ansett made overtures again to the Guinea Airways board, and by the end of 1959, Guinea Airways was once again an ATI subsidiary this time as a result of a complete takeover, rather than the previous loose agreement which had been a legacy of the ANA years. The following year the airline was renamed Airlines of South Australia, and continued to operate throughout South Australia, with a variety of aircraft types, until in 1986, following a State Government policy to de-regulate intrastate air routes, the then Ansett board members elected to terminate its operations. Over the preceding years, services had been undertaken also to places as diverse as Port Pirie, Ceduna, Kimba, Renmark, Mt Gambier, Naracoorte, and Millicent, with charter flights to Maralinga, Woomera, and Proserpine, as well as to the previously mentioned regional outports.
The take over of MMA took place in 1959 when the board of MMA approached Ansett with a deal to purchase shares in the airline. As a result ATI gained 70% ownership, effectively gaining full control.
Ansett –ANA gained control of Mandated Air Lines in January 1961. The new airline was named Ansett-MAL.
On 1 November 1968, the ANA was dropped and henceforth the airline became Ansett Airlines of Australia. During the 1974 cyclone disaster in Darwin, Ansett again came to the aid of Darwin residents, providing services and ground support, to assist in the evacuation of residents, while the city was rebuilt. The airline continued under the control of Reginald Myles Ansett, who was knighted in 1969. Late 1979, when after having defeated earlier takeover attempts, TNT and News Corporation each gained a 50% shareholding in Ansett Transport Industries. Sir Reginald passed away in 1981, just a few days prior to Christmas.
Following a new color scheme and new aircraft purchases, Ansett continued to operate throughout the 80s and 90s until News Corporation sold its shareholding in Ansett to Air New Zealand in June 2000 thus giving Air New Zealand total control, after having previously acquired the TNT shareholding back in 1996.
What followed of course is history. Air New Zealand after only fifteen months in full control, during which time its financial situation was hurting deeply, cut Ansett and its many loyal employees, adrift on Wednesday 12 September 2001, thus bringing a rather undignified end to what had been a truly great Australian airline. It can only be hoped that in time, the real story of what brought about this ending for Ansett, will be made public for all interested parties to see.