Jetstar Airways has opted for the new higher gross weight option for its new batch of Airbus A330-200s, giving the Australian low-cost carrier the potential to launch services to Europe before it begins taking Boeing 787s in 2013.

Korean Air in February became the new 238t A330-200 launch customer, with six aircraft to be delivered from August 2010. Jetstar chief executive Bruce Buchanan reveals the Qantas subsidiary, which earlier this year committed to leasing five additional A330s, has also opted for the higher gross weight option.

Jetstar now operates six A330s, with a seventh aircraft to be delivered in December as part of an earlier commitment. Jetstar's eight A330 is now due to be delivered in November 2010 and is expected to be the first with the higher gross weight option.

The option provides an extra 3.4t of payload or 610km (330nm) in range compared with the traditional 233t A330-200. Airbus began offering the heavier A330 in 2008, aiming to take advantage of 787 delivery delays, and Buchanan confirms its availability was a key factor in Qantas's decision earlier this year to defer its Boeing 787 deliveries.

Jetstar A330-200
 © Jetstar

Jetstar had been due to start taking 787s from Qantas's original for 65-aircraft 787 order with -8s in 2010, but now is due to start taking 787s from Qantas's revised 50-aircraft order with -9s in 2013. Jetstar had been waiting for the 787 to open routes to southern Europe, but Buchanan says that with the launch of the higher gross weight option for the A330 "we can now do southern Europe very comfortably out of Bangkok, Singapore or Ho Chi Minh".

He adds that Jetstar is now looking at linking one of these three Asian cities with Athens and/or Rome. The new European services would originate in Australia or connect in South-East Asia with existing Qantas Group services from Australia.

Buchanan says the group has not decided if the potential European services would be operated by Melbourne-based Jetstar Airways, Singapore-based sister carrier Jetstar Asia or Vietnamese sister carrier Jetstar Pacific. He says the group is also still weighing the potential European routes against new long-haul routes between South-East Asia and north Asia.

Meanwhile, on 1 October Jetstar took delivery of the first of 50 additional A320 family aircraft ordered by parent Qantas in late 2007.

Chief executive Bruce Buchanan says the aircraft, an A321, gives Jetstar a fleet of six A321s, 32 A320s and six A330s with five additional A320 family aircraft and one more A330 to be delivered before the end of the current fiscal year on 31 March.

He says another five A320s will be delivered by the end of the current fiscal year to sister carrier Jetstar Asia, including three growth aircraft and two aircraft that will be replace the two A320s now operated by Jetstar Asia subsidiary Valuair.

Jetstar Asia, including Valuair, now operates seven A320s and Jetstar Pacific in Vietnam flies one A320 plus five Boeing 737-400s. Buchanan says the group, having accelerated its A320 acquisition by taking on several more delivery slots for this year and next year, is committed to adding 10 more A320s during the fiscal year beginning on 1 April, but has not yet decided on an allocation between its three carriers.

Source: Flight International