The Qantas board last week approved plans to establish an international operation of the group’s Jetstar low-cost carrier, but deferred a decision on the group’s A$20 billion ($14.9 billion) new fleet procurement, writes Emma Kelly.

The aircraft deal is proving to be the most closely fought competition between Airbus and Boeing for many years. A special board meeting has been set for 14 December to further consider the order, with chief executive Geoff Dixon hopeful of a final board decision then.

Jetstar’s international arm will launch services to destinations within six to 10 hours of Australia no later than January 2007. The new airline will initially focus on point-to-point routes between Australia and Asian and Pacific cities, but will later expand to two-stage flights to European and other destinations.

Jetstar’s international services will complement Qantas’ mainline international operations, with the former to concentrate on leisure routes, says Dixon. “Jetstar will have opportunities to fly to destinations already served by Qantas mainline, but from alternative Australian ports to the current Qantas services,” he says. Routes will be announced in mid-2006, says Qantas.

Meanwhile, the group’s leisure carrier, Australian Airlines, will continue to supplement the parent’s mainline operations, principally in inbound and leisure markets. The new international operation is also expected to work closely with Singapore-based Jetstar Asia, which has yet to meet its expected potential, largely because of failure to secure traffic rights.

Jetstar will operate a two-class configuration on international services – economy class and StarClass (premium economy). The initial international route structure will require a 10-aircraft fleet – the type of which is set to be discussed on 14 December.

Source: Flight International