Jetstar muscles in on flights to China

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Jetstar says it will be flying non-stop between Australia and China under a new charter arrangement before the end of the year, as it positions itself to take a bigger slice of the booming Chinese market.

The Qantas-owned budget airline flies out of seven Chinese airports to other destinations in Asia but has no flights to Australia.

That will change with plans for a new charter service bringing Chinese tourists to Australia on package tours within the next six months.

“We fly 35 services a week into China through the combination of our airlines and we have a comprehensive plan for the future that sees that continue to grow,” Jetstar CEO Jayne Hrdlicka told Fairfax Media on Thursday.

Jetstar could service travellers outside of China's major cities.

Jetstar could service travellers outside of China’s major cities.  Photo: Paul Rovere

 

While not giving details of which cities the service would be between, Ms Hrdlicka said Jetstar’s approach to China was to look at second and third-tier cities.

“The primary airports in China into the primary destinations throughout the region are very well covered,” she said.

“It’s our role to build markets and make it possible for people to travel that otherwise don’t get the opportunity.

“We’ll be doing that in places where we’ve got a strong, growing middle-class and not the same array of opportunities that exist for some of those major cities.”

Jetstar had a charter arrangement to fly Chinese tour groups between Wuhan in central China and the Gold Coast for 12 months, which ended in September last year.

Ms Hrdlicka told an American Chamber of Commerce in Australia lunch in Melbourne on Thursday that 120 million Chinese travelled abroad every year, with about 1 per cent of those visiting Australia.

The number of Chinese travelling overseas was forecast to be 800 million or more by 2034. If Australia kept its 1 per cent share, that would translate to 8 million Chinese visitors.

“The major Chinese carriers will take a big slice of that but we clearly see an opportunity,” she told Fairfax Media.

“With Qantas playing the premium end, we clearly see an opportunity with Jetstar to play a very special role with respect to connecting China to Australia.”

China it set to overtake New Zealand as Australia’s largest tourism market within the next three years, and will have the world’s largest aviation market by 2029, according to the International Air Travel Association.

That has seen Australian airlines reposition their networks to cater to Chinese travellers, with Qantas restarting flights between Sydney and Beijing in January after an eight-year hiatus and Virgin Australia flying into Hong Kong as of next month.

Chinese airlines are also opening new routes between the two countries, most recently with China Southern starting Melbourne to Shenzhen flights earlier in June.

Ms Hrdlicka said China would remain segmented between destinations best serviced by Qantas and cities with more price sensitive customers that Jetstar could target for “at least the next couple of decades”.

By Patrick Hatch
Sydney Morning Herald

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