Jetstar takes first A320 from accelerated 2007 order

Washington DC
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Jetstar Airways took delivery today of the first of 50 additional A320 family aircraft ordered by parent Qantas in late 2007 as part of a newly accelerated delivery schedule.

Chief executive Bruce Buchanan says the Australian low-cost carrier took an A321 today, giving it a fleet of six A321s, 32 A320s and six A330s. He says the aircraft is the first of 11 A320 family aircraft the Jetstar group will take during its current fiscal year, which ends 31 March 2010.

He says Jetstar originally was only planning to add a few A320s this fiscal year and a few more next fiscal year but has accelerated its narrowbody fleet expansion by assuming delivery slots given up by other carriers. He adds the acceleration includes bringing forward aircraft from Qantas' 50-aircraft order as well as leased aircraft.

In announcing its order for 50 additional Jetstar A320s in November 2007, Qantas also said it had committed to leasing 18 additional aircraft for a total of 68. At the same time Qantas announced orders for 31 Boeing 737-800s for its mainline division.

Buchanan says so far four out of a revised total of 15 additional leased aircraft have been delivered. He says of the 11 A320s be delivered this fiscal year, eight are from the lease deals and three are from the order with Airbus, including the A321 delivered today.

Of the 11 aircraft six will be operated by Australia's Jetstar, including today's aircraft. The other five will be delivered to Singapore-based sister carrier Jetstar Asia. Buchanan says three of these five will be growth aircraft and two will replace the two A320s now operated by Jetstar Asia subsidiary Valuair.

Jetstar Asia, including Valuair, now operates seven A320s. The carrier has already unveiled plans to use the three additional A320s to open new routes to China, Thailand and India plus add frequencies on its Singapore-Manila route.

Valuair, which Jetstar Asia acquired in 2005, is used to operate services to Indonesia. Buchanan says Jetstar plans to keep Valuair's air operators certificate (AOC) as it is still needed for the group's Singapore-Indonesia services due to bilateral restrictions. But he says Jetstar is working with government officials in Singapore and Indonesia to brand the new Valuair aircraft Jetstar.

"The Valuair business will stay. It's a valuable business," Buchanan told ATI sister publication Airline Business during an interview earlier today. "We're just working on the branding issue."

While two of Jetstar Asia's seven A320s are now operated by Valuair Buchanan says it is undecided how many aircraft will remain under the Valuair AOC after its two aircraft are replaced.

Buchanan, who took over as CEO of Jetstar exactly one year ago, says the group is also now committed to adding 10 more A320s during the fiscal year beginning 1 April 2010. But he says it has not yet decided on an allocation between the Jetstar carriers.

In addition to the seven A320s at Jetstar Asia in Singapore, Jetstar Pacific in Vietnam now operates one A320 plus five Boeing 737-400s.

Buchanan says Jetstar Pacific is now looking at adding A320s next fiscal year but these could be sourced separately from the Qantas order. He says the additional A320s for Jetstar Pacific would be a mix of growth and replacement aircraft.

"They will start to get more A320s. It's just a question of how long the A320 transition will take," Buchanan says, adding this partly depends on if the carrier can negotiate early lease returns on its 737-400s.

While Jetstar has accelerated A320 deliveries by agreeing to take several more aircraft this fiscal year and next fiscal year, Buchanan says there have been no revisions in the delivery schedule for future years because the carrier already had a sufficient number of annual delivery slots after April 2011 from the 50-aircraft order. At the time the order was placed it was hard to secure delivery slots in 2009 and 2010, but that has changed with the economic downturn, which has prompted several A320 operators to defer deliveries.