CANBERRA, Australia – Australia's second largest airline, Ansett, was grounded early Friday after its parent, Air New Zealand, failed to find a buyer for the unprofitable carrier.
``Unfortunately it (Ansett) couldn't be given away for a dollar,'' said Peter Hedge, the voluntary administrator from PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Hedge said his midnight decision to ground the airline had been because there was ``not enough money to keep the lights on.'' Before the closure, Ansett was losing about $676,000 a day.
The grounding left the airline's 16,000 staff in shock and stranded an estimated 45,000 passengers around the country.
Ansett was placed into voluntary administration Wednesday after Australia's largest carrier Qantas rejected Air New Zealand's plea for it to buy all or parts of the carrier.
Ansett controlled about 38 percent of Australia's domestic market, Qantas about 55 percent and Virgin Blue seven percent.
Ansett also flew to Asia and was a member of the Star Alliance that included carriers like United Airlines and Singapore Airlines.
Hedge said negotiations were underway with potential buyers of Ansett assets.
Rival airline Virgin Blue said with the administrator's approval, it plans to resurrect one of Ansett's regional airlines, lease another 10 of Ansett's grounded airplanes and employ 1,000 Ansett staff within days.
Air New Zealand was itself in danger of collapse until the New Zealand government and major shareholders, including Singapore Airlines announced a $233 million rescue package Thursday.