It’s pretty tedious down at the old High Court building in Melbourne, where the civil case between the administrators of Ansett Airlines and Diners Club grinds its way through a second sitting week. (The actual jurisdiction is the Supreme Court of Victoria.)

One twist of interest is that it turns out that American Express happily supplied the lawyers and experts for Ansett and Diners with some data on monthly spending between 1999 and 2003 for the purpose of analysis by each side of the losses Diners suffered thanks to the collapse of the airline and its frequent flyer scheme (measuring this loss, if any, is a key dimension of the case).

Fuelling this argument seems to have been in the interests of Amex, and enough managers of Diners keep showing up to court to justify this piece of cooperation in a rival’s legal blue.

The remainder of Ansett’s witnesses haven’t revealed anything of interest and nor have they conceded much to the occasionally absurd line of questioning from Diners’s advocates.

A favoured line of inquiry of witnesses by Diners was to seek their opinion of the significance of an unspecified “Moscow siege” on international travel in general and international travel to Australia in particular. They presumably refer to the October 2002 siege at the House of Culture – a dramatic international news event but not one with notable consequences for Australian and New Zealand tourism trends.

The context of Diners’s claims is the effort by the defendants in the case to establish that the collapse of Ansett Airlines, and the associated demise of the Global Rewards scheme and the loss of frequent flyer points, bears the blame for Diners’s subsequent poor trading – and all as if the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the US (which in the end sank Ansett), the Bali bombings (also of 2002) and the affect of SARS on Asian regional travel in 2003 are of minor relevance.

Still, Diners’s chief advocate, Peter Hayes, made one telling point yesterday. Wasn’t it true, Hayes asked, “that Diners suffered a violent and dramatic collapse and never recovered?”

Ansett’s bemused witness, Owain Stone from Ernst & Young, could only agree.

Peter Fray

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