Jetstar’s ambitions to fly wide-bodied Airbus A332s twice daily between Singapore and Tokyo’s Haneda airport were shafted this morning by the sudden granting of the requested capacity to Singapore Airlines.

The battle of the low-cost trans-border franchises of Singapore Airlines-controlled Tiger and Qantas-directed Jetstar Asia based in Singapore is definitely turning nasty.

Until this morning Jetstar Asia seemed optimistic that Singapore’s Air Traffic Rights Commission would grant it twice daily flights on the route with new jets Qantas will take delivery of next October.

It was to have been a strong move by Jetstar to expand its Changi operations through Jetstar Asia into destinations such as  Tokyo, which are too far from Singapore to be served by single aisle A320s.

However, Singapore Airlines, which controls Tiger Airways and that is under severe pressure from Jetstar Asia, will fly the route twice daily from next October instead.

The Tokyo-Haneda route was to have been the first material development in the Qantas strategy of creating a large offshore base for Jetstar’s long-haul international services.

Qantas is serious about shifting some of its planned expansion of low-fare, long-haul flights by the Jetstar brand on the kangaroo routes to Europe to lower cost centres.

Jetstar Asia in Singapore is the front runner for this, especially given the ideological challenges to the continued operation of its Hanoi-based Jetstar Pacific franchise.

However, the Jetstar plan clearly threatened the interests of Singapore Airlines and its insistence until now that Tiger would confine itself to single aisle, shorter range A320s.

The problem is that A320s are useless for low-cost flights as far from Singapore as Seoul or Shanghai or Dubai or Abu Dhabi, all cities with untapped potential for a low-cost Singapore-flagged carrier such as  Jetstar Asia, which is 51% locally owned by Westbrook Investments.

By showing its hand on its wide-body ambitions Jetstar Asia also follows the other Tiger rival, Air Asia, in moving to a two-type fleet allowing it to operate long-haul routes as well as shorter regional Asian routes.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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