In the four months since stepping across from helming Qantas’s international business to its low-cost unit Jetstar, Gareth Evans has been on quite a learning journey.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. There’s been a lot of learning. While Jetstar is fundamentally an airline, and I understand airlines, there’s quite a lot of difference,” he tells FlightGlobal during an interview at the Routes Asia event in Brisbane.
He nominates the different culture of the younger airline as a key difference from running Qantas International.
Somewhat curiously, Evans notes that his thinking about passengers at Jetstar differs from his thinking when he was at Qantas – and not in a way that may be immediately obvious.
At Qantas there were certain aspects of the product that were a given, such as premium seating, meals and beverage offerings that were easy to imagine and take action on.
“The thinking about the customer, while I thought it would be similar, is in some ways more complex in a low-cost carrier,” Evans says. “There’s a whole range of ways that ‘low-cost carriers’ can meet expectations and provide a set of customer products and services.”
But he adds that there are also some areas to which he brings “Qantas knowledge” into the Jetstar group, and sees ways that the low-cost carrier can also bring some of its expertise back to the group level for the benefit of the other carriers.
Some of that comes from his previous role as the group chief financial officer for Qantas, in which he served in between 2010 and 2015, before taking up the role of chief executive of Qantas International.
That is not to suggest, however, that Jetstar has been underperforming. For the six months to 31 December, the budget unit delivered a 16% rise in operating profit to A$318 million – driven primarily by a record result from its domestic Australian operations.
That half also saw positive contributions from its overseas affiliates: Singapore-based Jetstar Asia, Jetstar Japan and Vietnamese joint-venture Jetstar Pacific.
“Of course all of them are in different stages of their lifecycles and they are in different markets with different dynamics,” comments Evans.
While rival carriers AirAsia and Lion Air Group continue to roll out and bed down new low-cost franchises across Asia, he says that at this stage there is no compelling case to follow suit. Nonetheless, further expansion of the Jetstar brand could occur later.
“If the right market and the right partner came along in the future, then that would be absolutely something we would have a look at it,” says Evans.
For now, the largest project facing Evans is the introduction of the first of 18 A321LRs, which will enter the fleet from 2020.
In announcing the delivery of the jets, Qantas highlighted that they would be able to fly from Australia’s east coast up to Denpasar, potentially allowing for some of its 11 Boeing 787-8s to be deployed on other markets.
But Evans says that the main focus for the A321neos will be on the domestic network, where they will kick off a replacement programme for its fleet of 52 baseline A320s and eight A321s.
“Primarily they are going to be a domestic aircraft, so this is about a generational change in technology,” he adds.
Evans also points out that the airline still plans to fly 787s from Sydney and Melbourne to Denpasar once the A321s come in, with those aircraft only supplementing the widebodies on back-of-the-clock flights.
He says that there are strong parallels between plans for the A321s and Qantas’s A330s, which operate on both domestic and international routes.
“That flexibility is hugely beneficial to us, and potentially in future we can deploy that flexibility into the other businesses in Japan and Singapore,” Evans adds.
Shorter-term, his focus this year will be on improving the carrier’s operational reliability and on-time performance, which have been on an upward trajectory over the past few years.
In addition, he sees further work ahead to integrate the various Jetstar franchises, and also growing the links to the wider Qantas group and other interline and codeshare partners.
“I think the first period for me is growing and building on the strong platform that we have today, and improving in the areas we need to improve on, giving us the right platform to grow on into the future.
Source: Cirium Dashboard