Qantas still in talks to launch Asia-based premium carrier

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Qantas Airways has denied speculation that it is shelving plans to launch a premium carrier based in Asia.

The Australian Financial Review (AFR) reported on 28 November that Qantas is walking away from its plan to start the premium carrier because of fears over economic uncertainities in Europe, and that it is working on a lower risk alliance with Malaysia Airlines (MAS).

"The article in the AFR is purely speculation and no decision has been made," said a Qantas spokeswoman when contacted.

The Australian carrier had in August announced its plans to launch the premium carrier and said that it intends to revitalise its international operations.

"A cornerstone of this strategy is tapping into the forecast growth in the intra-Asia travel sector - not just at the low-cost end, but premium traffic," said the spokeswoman.

"We're continuing to look at options for establishing a hub in Singapore or Malaysia and discussions are underway with key stakeholders in both these markets," she said.

The spokeswoman, however, added that recent changes at MAS and its joining of the Oneworld alliance, together with Qantas's longstanding relationship with Tony Fernandes, "now presents a genuine option for the Qantas group to tap into Asia".

"At this stage, nothing is ruled in or out and all options are under serious consideration," she said, adding that the investment will take into consideration changes in the global economy.

AirAsia CEO's Fernandes had said earlier this month that he plans to start an all-premium regional carrier based in Kuala Lumpur in collaboration with MAS.