Ansett Australia was a major Australian airline group, based in Melbourne. The airline flew domestically within Australia and from the 1990s to destinations in Asia. After operating for 66 years, the airline was placed into administration in 2001 following a financial collapse, and subsequent organised liquidation in 2002, subject to deed of company arrangement.
The company was founded by Reginald "Reg" Ansett in 1935 as Ansett Airways Pty Ltd. This was an offshoot of his road transport business which had become so successful it was threatening the freight and passenger revenue of Victorian Railways. This led the state government to legislate to put private road transport operators out of business. Reg Ansett countered by establishing an airline as aviation was under control of the federal government and beyond the reach of the state government.
Ansett's first route between Hamilton and Melbourne operated by a Fokker Universal monoplane commenced on 17 February 1936. The rapid success of the airline led Ansett to float the business in 1937. As the route network expanded, Ansett Airways imported Lockheed Electra aircraft. During World War II Reg Ansett opted to suspend all scheduled services, except the Hamilton service, in favour of more lucrative work for the United States Army Air Forces. After the war Ansett battled to re-establish his domestic routes using war-surplus Douglas DC-3s, converted from C-47s and the remaining L-10s.
At this time, the Australian domestic airline travel sector was dominated by Australian National Airways (ANA), established in 1936 by a consortium of British-financed Australian shipowners. The Chifley Federal Government was determined to establish a state-owned airline to operate all domestic and international services. It was eventually thwarted in this aim by the High Court of Australia, and so it established Trans Australia Airlines (TAA) to operate in competition with ANA.
Ansett Airways remained a big player as ANA and TAA battled for supremacy in the 1940s and 1950s. Ansett operated around the big two, maintaining budget fare interstate operations with DC-3s and later Convair CV-340s. The airline was backed up by extensive road transport operations, including Ansett Freight Express and Ansett Pioneer Coaches, as well as the Ansair coach building operation.