Jetstar Asia plans long-haul low-cost services from Singapore

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Jetstar Asia could start long-haul low-cost services out of Singapore if it secures some of the Airbus A330-200s that Qantas Airways will take on lease from end-2010.

Qantas, which owns 49% of the Singapore-based low-cost carrier, said in August that it would get the first leased A330 in November 2010 and three more in 2011. It could get a fifth leased A330 later if there is sufficient demand. It said then that these are for Jetstar, its Australian low-cost subsidiary that already has a fleet of six A330-200s.

However, Jetstar Asia CEO Chong Phit Lian says that her carrier hopes to get some of the A330s so that it can emulate Australia's Jetstar and launch long-haul operations from Singapore.

"I would want to make sure that there are some A330s coming our way. I have to make the business plan and put the suggestion up to our board, but we are very keen on using the aircraft to start long-haul services," she says. "People say that the region does not have successful long-haul low fare operators, but Jetstar Australia has built up its brand and has been doing that successfully for several years. That is our model."

One reason for the plan is the connectivity that Singapore offers, and the carrier's plans to increase its short-haul network from the island in the coming months. The airline is resuming Singapore-Phuket flights in December, starting Singapore-Haikou - its first service to mainland China - in the same month, and aims to resume flights to India in the first half of 2010.

"Singapore has been a good hub for us and allows us to reach a large part of Asia. If anything, we want to grow our Singapore operations. That is why we are increasing our short-haul network by adding new services and increasing the frequencies on existing ones. Long-haul low-fare flights will complement these short haul services."

The earliest that Jetstar Asia will be able to begin long-haul flights is 2011, given the delivery schedule of the A330s. Some of the regions that Jetstar Asia is likely to target are the Middle East and Northeast Asia, says Chong.

Further on, the carrier is also keen to secure some of the Boeing 787-9s that the Qantas group has ordered. These could be used to complement its long-haul services, she adds.

Jetstar Asia operates a fleet of seven Airbus A320s for its short-haul market. It will add another A320 in December and two more in the first half of 2010.