Jetstar eyes additional Asian bases and partners

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Australian low-cost carrier Jetstar is seeking new bases and partners in Asia as part of its ongoing expansion plan.

The Qantas subsidiary has a Singapore-based associate, Jetstar Asia, and named the island as its main Asian base. Qantas also has a stake in Vietnam's Jetstar Pacific.

Other bases are being considered, although the airline's priority is to make Japan its next major base, says Bruce Buchanan, who was today appointed CEO of the Jetstar Group.

The airline's increased focus on Asia comes after it announced today that Chong Phit Lian, CEO of Jetstar Asia, will oversee the group's investments and businesses in the region. She will also be tasked with building the carrier's long-haul operations out of Singapore.

"New opportunities will be important for our success moving forward. We are always looking for new businesses. We have different airlines looking to partner us, and we are in talks with them," says Buchanan.

"We have been looking at Japan as a possible base for some time, we have said that before. It is a very important country for us. There are also opportunities for other bases that we are exploring as well."

Japan is one of the largest markets for the Jetstar Group. Jetstar operates flights from Gold Coast, Cairns and Sydney to Tokyo's Narita and Osaka-Kansai airports.

Jetstar Asia has begun flights from Singapore to Osaka-Kansai via Taipei. It has secured rights to operate direct Singapore-Tokyo Narita services, but these will not begin until after it gets its first Airbus A330 around end-2010.

There are no immediate plans for a base in China, but Buchanan says that the carrier considers the country a very important part of its strategy. "We really want to get our brand established in China. We connect up a lot of dots into China from our existing services, and that will continue to grow."

Jetstar is also keen to "deepen" its ties with other airlines as part of its strategy, with Buchanan revealing that it is in talks with "three to four new partners" and that there could be some announcements on this down the line. The carrier has partnerships with Qantas and other airlines like Japan Airlines. These include both codeshare and interline agreements.

"One of the key successes for Jetstar has been our history of partnering other airlines. We have extensive codeshare and interline agreements with others, and will look for more of these," he adds.

Plans by Jetstar and Malaysia's AirAsia to deepen their cooperation are well underway, says Buchanan. The two signed an agreement in January to co-operate in areas like the joint purchase of aircraft and ground and passenger handling services in order to cut costs.

"There has been a lot of work in the engineering and parts side of things. We have gone through some joint tenders. There have also been some service sharing when it comes to flight disruptions. There should be a few more announcements in the coming weeks," he says.