We were really excited to hear about the launch of Air Australia into the market and all the exciting new possibilities it was going to provide to travellers into, out of and within Australia. And it was a bit disappointing to find out that Air Australia managed to sully the name of our good country by managing to get itself in financial poop, to the extent that they even stranded travellers in airports when they (the company, not the travellers) went down the gurgler. There are some standards, so we won’t write the words that best express what these travellers were probably thinking.
It was probably a case of “mess with the best, die like the rest”. Australia already has one national carrier in the form of Qantas, which has been flying since 1920. That’s going back to the days when everything had propellers, and the big jet-powered air liners of today were just a fantasy. Qantas’s first commercial passenger flight happened before World War II broke out, flying from Darwin to Singapore. And it still flies the same route, even though the little Avro 504K has long since been replaced by jet aircraft. The well-known kangaroo in the logo certainly kicks some serious butt in the world of Australian air travel, and the kangaroo is prepared to fight anyone who tries to knuckle in on its territory. Some people might try citing JetStar as a potential rival to the Flying Kangaroo. Guess again – JetStar is the low-cost subsidiary of Qantas.
Why has Qantas managed to survive while other companies have gone bung? It’s not just a case of starting early in the picture, although this certainly would have helped. Ansett was another Australian airline that got started in the pre-WWII period but it managed to get into the financial poop when it started looking offshore and get into the international scene. Ansett also got involved with another national carrier – Air New Zealand – sparking a bit of trans-Tasman rivalry and creating a few problems regarding monopolies (if Air New Zealand had owned Ansett, there would have just been one main company flying domestic routes in New Zealand, which is Not Allowed), not to mention a few other problems, including the terrorism September 11 2001 and all the impact it had on the global aviation industry. And Ansett ended up dying dramatically and messily, though the process took longer than the flash-in-the-pan life and death of Air Australia. Air New Zealand managed to survive and is doing reasonably well – they’re an option for flying to Christchurch, Wellington or Auckland – but they did get a bail-out or two from the New Zealand government, or else we’d have seen Qantas doing domestic routes on both sides of the Tasman.
The brand “Air Australia” still exists – it’s the name of a flying school operating out of Perth, and if you’re interested in learning to fly, either for fun or to get a start on an aviation career (and you live in Western Australia), it’s probably not a bad place to start the process.