Jetstar took on Qantas this afternoon with a ‘Star Class’ sale aimed at its premium economy class, and anyone trying to make sense of this on Qantas.com might well decide it’s a lot easier to pay a travel agent a modest fee to save their time and see if there isn’t something simpler and cheaper out there in the market at large.

Case in point. Melbourne to Bangkok Star Class in the sale period is $529 one way and all the flights looked at were via Sydney on a Qantas or Jetstar domestic flight.

The best red-e deal Qantas had was $827, in economy. In Qantas premium economy the best price was $1630, or nearly three times the Star Class price in a similarly sized seat. And there was no difference, in fare, if you made the connecting flight north in a Jetstar all economy flight with almost enough room for your cruciate ligaments, or the civilised leg room of a Cityflyer 767.

Star Class is Jetstar’s premium economy even though it says it is its business class.

In summary, Jetstar is undercutting the Qantas economy and premium economy best fares with this sale. And you get into the Qantas Club lounge at Sydney Airport with a Star Class ticket (see the conditions posted on Qantas.com) more easily than if you are flying on its own premium economy offering, where you need to be a paid Qantas Club member to get past the bounce… nice person at the front desk.

In reality, Jetstar isn’t going to have many Star class seats to sell as specials, and Qantas shareholders mightn’t care, since the company owns the ‘other’ brand too.

But the sale is a reminder that Jetstar is slipping the leash at Qantas, and competing directly with the full service brand as part of the wider agenda of curbing Tiger on domestic routes and undermining the legacy pay and conditions of Qantas everywhere.

It could also be a case of Jetstar lifting the profile of its premium economy international product before Qantas rolls out new configurations that will see it sharply increase the numbers of these seats it currently offers on its 747s and A380s.

While checking the Qantas.com site this afternoon the empire seemed to strike back, dropping its Sydney-Honolulu return red-e economy fare to $1149, compared to the one way Jetstar Star Class offer of $679.

For the slight extra cost, the contest between a roomy Star Class seat and a red-e special on a flight of almost ten hours is no contest.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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