Qantas to focus on Asian growth plans

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Australia's Qantas Airways plans to make its Asian strategy a priority by adding services to Singapore and improving connections with its partners in the region.

Under a wide-ranging agreement with Emirates, the Oneworld alliance member moved its base for European services from Singapore to Dubai last month. The carrier will now fly to Dubai and place its passengers on Emirates' network.

This, and other cost-cutting measures, including a consolidation of its maintenance operations in Australia and the deferral and cancellation of widebody aircraft orders, is aimed at returning its international business to profitability.

Asia, however, is a "priority", says Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce, in a speech to the National Press Club in Australia. Australia's closest trading partners are in the region and "to be a part of Asia is to be a part of the future of this planet", he adds.

Qantas's low-cost subsidiary Jetstar has made significant headway in the region through its services from Australia. Singapore-based Jetstar Asia, in which Qantas has a 49% stake, has rapidly become one of the leading short and medium-haul, low-cost carriers in the region.

Jetstar Japan, a Tokyo-based joint venture with Japan Airlines, has just begun operations. Qantas is still waiting for regulatory approval for Jetstar Hong Kong, a joint venture with Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines.

"We are working with Asian partners and building our knowledge of Asian cultures. We are proud of what we have done so far, but there is so much more we can do. We know that it is important to have the right network and the right offering for Qantas passengers in Asia. It is something we need to fix in order to turn Qantas International around," says Joyce.

Qantas plans to strengthen its position in Asia through Singapore and Hong Kong, he adds. This means retiming flights to Singapore and Hong Kong to focus on travel to, within and from Asia.

The carrier will also work with Emirates on its services between Australia and Asia. It plans to add a second daily service on the Melbourne-Singapore and Brisbane-Singapore routes and introduce a direct Melbourne-Kuala Lumpur service.

"We will offer 40% more dedicated capacity to Singapore, our primary Asian hub, and 25% more 'same day' connections onward across the region through partners such as China Eastern and [India's] Jet Airways - plus, of course, Jetstar Asia," says Joyce.

"We will also refine our product offerings in the air and on the ground to better meet the needs of our Asian business and leisure travellers. We want to be there, supporting Australia's deepening friendships and business relationships in Asia. With this Emirates partnership, we can establish the right framework for that vital long-term project, which will be good for us, our customers and Australia."