Chile's JetSMART plans to add international service next year, as it highlights growth potential for low-cost carriers in Latin America.

The Santiago-based airline, which launched revenue service in late July, now operates to a handful of cities and has announced plans for a network of eight domestic destinations in the coming months.

In 2018, JetSMART wants to add flights to Peru, chief executive Estuardo Ortiz tells FlightGlobal.

Peru is among the largest markets from Chile, he says, calling the neighbouring country a natural fit for JetSMART's international ambitions.

Backed by Indigo Partners, JetSMART operates two Airbus A320s and expects to receive its third aircraft in September. It plans to end 2017 with a fleet of at least nine A320s, says Ortiz.

The airline's first two A320s are new aircraft leased from CDB Aviation Lease Finance, Flight Fleets Analyzer shows. Ortiz says the carrier plans to lease aircraft for now, to allow it to focus on growth.

Ortiz is so far pleased with the airline's initial revenue trends and load factors, although he declines to reveal numbers. But he says the airline has been pleasantly surprised with the response towards the ultra low-cost carrier model, which is not widespread in South America. The region is dominated by full-service carriers, although the recent year has seen a new breed of low-cost carriers such as JetSMART.

"We've been able to get the word out, and the reception has been surprisingly very positive," says Ortiz. "It's a really good start for the LCC model."

He says the airline's online booking process is structured in a way that makes it clear to passengers that they have to pay for amenities like baggage. "Our website takes you by the hand through the booking process," he says. Up to 60% of JetSMART passengers pay some form of baggage fee.

There are currently no plans for Indigo to bring in other investors into JetSMART, says Ortiz, who was Avianca's chief revenue officer before he left the airline in 2016. JetSMART is also not planning subsidiaries in other parts of Latin America - an expansion strategy that has been taken by the region's more mature discounters Volaris and Viva Air Group.

"We want to keep it modest," says Ortiz of the airline's immediate growth plans. "I would rather do, than talk."

Source: Cirium Dashboard