Jetstar Asia’s long-haul plan could force SIA’s hand

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Singapore could have a long-haul low-cost operation in two years if Jetstar Asia gets its way, and that will only be good for the country and its Changi Airport.

The island has been marketing itself as a major regional air transport hub, and the authorities should welcome any move that enhances that reputation. Jetstar Asia’s plans will do just that.

The carrier is clearly more confident after Qantas increased its stake earlier this year. It plans to sign interline agreements with several airlines and bring their passengers onto its network, add more airbus A320 aircraft, and begin operations on several short-haul routes in the coming months. A long-haul service would be an extension of that.

Singapore Airlines will watch this move closely and its response will be interesting. While it holds its own against the other full service carriers that offer flights out of Singapore, a low-cost rival to its lucrative long-haul market is a different kettle of fish.

One option could be for SIA to follow Qantas and start up a long-haul low-cost subsidiary like Jetstar. That would have major implications for its regional subsidiary Silkair and low-cost associate Tiger Airways. The next year should be quite interesting.

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