Budget carrier Jetstar puts its focus on China
Jetstar plans to operate flights to as many as 12 cities in China by the end of the year.
The budget carrier, owned by Qantas Airways, announced in Beijing yesterday that it would start daily services from Melbourne to Beijing via Singapore from November 24. It will use an Airbus A330 on the route, offering about 8,000 seats a week between the three cities.
Bruce Buchanan, chief executive of Jetstar Group, said China would be a focus market in the group's future development strategy.
'A host of Chinese cities and other fast-growing centres in Asia will be the source of a booming new generation of middle-class citizens who will have a desire to travel,' he said.
Jetstar operates about 80 weekly flights to and from seven cities in the region - Hangzhou, Guilin, Shantou, Haikou, Macau, Hong Kong and Taipei.
It announced last week that it would open a new route to the coastal city of Ningbo, in Zhejiang province, from September 9.
Buchanan said the company was looking at other first- and second-tier mainland cities for its next destinations, but the progress would depend on the local governments' support, co-operation with local airports and the availability of suitable time slots.
The budget airline market in China has been warming up in recent years. Malaysia-based AirAsia, the largest budget airline in Asia, said last month that it planned to open routes to Beijing and Shanghai in the future, in addition to the existing routes to eight other Chinese cities.
Local low-cost carrier Spring Airlines also announced recently that it would offer services from Shanghai to Kyushu in an attempt to cash in on the growing interest of Chinese tourists in visiting Japan.
Jetstar yesterday said it had yet to set the pricing for the Beijing route and was offering only a special sale on its website at the moment. A single-trip, economy class ticket between Beijing and Singapore is priced at S$148 (HK$943) on certain dates between November 24 and March 7.
That compares with 6,066 yuan (HK$7,308) for a one-way Air China ticket and 5,235 yuan for a Singapore Airlines ticket from Beijing to Singapore, according to data provided by Shanghai-based travel agent Ctrip.
Buchanan was confident that the new services would appeal to the Australian-Chinese community.
Australia is home to more than 200,000 Chinese-born residents and there are another 167,000 Chinese students in the country. Australia is also an increasingly popular destination for Chinese tourists.
'No one should be in any doubt that the rise of China will have a permanent effect and shape the future of the Australian tourism industry,' Buchanan said.
Jetstar Group, which has subsidiaries in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam, now offers more than 2,400 flights per week to 56 destinations across 17 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
The company carried 8.4 million passengers for the six months ended last December, up 15 per cent from a year earlier.
Jetstar owns 78 passenger aircraft and may purchase another 50 over the next five years.