Ansett goes back to the future

ALWAYS take the road less travelled is my rule.

That’s why I went to Canberra last week when most of the population, or so it seemed, had left.

Election time leaves the nation’s capital something of a morgue – but I was well accustomed to that feeling after doing something else that no-one else was doing, flying Ansett.

Having spent just a bit of time travelling in what we kindly refer to as the third world, I couldn’t help feeling I was there again at various times during my recent journey.

Not that I am knocking Ansett. They are doing their best under trying circumstances and, in many ways, going back to basics is what it is all about.

Let’s face it, some of the conditions we regard as third world today were common in parts of Australia just a generation or two ago.

So, when the only thing operating in the departure lounge sells soft drinks, when the pilots are serving refreshments before the flight, when passengers are bringing their own meals on board and when the movie screens remain tightly imbedded in their rooftop housings, there is a strong feeling of nostalgia.

And that’s just about what Ansett has to do. Go back to the future.

The airline must show it can get people from A to B at a decent price, like Virgin and other potential low-cost rivals will do.

Price was the only reason I flew Ansett. The risk of being left stranded diminishes in magnitudewhen the only flying rival is charging obscene prices.

The fare quoted to fly Qantas to Canberra almost matched a return flight to the UK.

In fact, the differential was so great that I sat next to the wife of a Qantas pilot on my trip home.

Her first time on Ansett and her first seat in economy – in more than 30 years!

Used to the generous staff concessions, the full flights had prompted the need to pay top fare – and Qantas had the cheek to quote her double. It’s market forces at work.

There will always be a market for an airline that can keep its costs and prices low, even if that means no-frills.

Another positive from the journey was the huge difference in passenger numbers over the week I was away.

The Monday flight to Melbourne was one third full (as oppposed to two thirds empty) while the Friday trip back was packed.

Oh ... and as for Canberra. It was exciting enough for me to canvass election predictions from the taxi drivers, the only true barometer of public opinion.

The result? A begrudging 3-0 to the Coalition with one undecided.

A closer look

ONE of the most interesting battles on in the election is in South Australia, where several Liberal heavyweights’ seats are at risk.

The State is one of the worst performing and, like Tasmania, is increasingly struggling for relevance.

In this tense situation, the wine industry stands tall as a strong performer and big employer, a position enhanced by its ability to cross the city/country divide.

It’s an agricultural product young urban people talk about at parties. Under these circumstances you would think the pollies might listen to the industry when it suggests it has been hard done by in the tax stakes and the Government is kill-ing the goose that laid the golden egg.

You also might think the Opposition would pounce on the Libs’ uncaring position. Not so. Labor has come out with a watered down policy and missed a golden opportunity to gain ground in a key electorate.

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