It is now about a year, according to Qantas guidance to date, to the delivery to Jetstar of the first of 15 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners fitted out with 313 high density seats, including a small premium economy cabin marketed as business class.
But something doesn’t seem right. Trawling through the Jetstar timetables, as one does, it is difficult to see where that many Dreamliners are going to fly for Jetstar if background information remains valid, in that the 787-8s will be based in Singapore, and replace Airbus A330-200s currently being flown to a limited number of destinations, as well as expand those wide-body operations.
This isn’t to say that Jetstar isn’t sitting on a brilliant expansionary plan waiting to blind side us all with its genius. Qantas shareholders and Jetstar staff will be be no doubt hoping this is very much the case.
The not-quite-right bit involves services between Singapore and Beijing and Singapore-Auckland which were respectively supposed to be five or seven times weekly according to pre-launch hype.
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But the timetable shows that Singapore-Beijing has shrunk from five weekly to four weekly services, and Singapore-Auckland is down to three times weekly. Jetstar’s international services also use the A332 between Melbourne and Singapore daily, and frequently between Australia and Honolulu and Australia and Japan.
However the timetable doesn’t show where 15 Dreamliners would go. And shrinking Singapore-Beijing and Singapore-Auckland definitely wasn’t on the song sheets when those services were launched.
What several sources have said for some time now is the 787-8 isn’t going to operate non-stop between Singapore and anywhere in Europe, nor non-stop between Australia and the US west coast cities such as San Francisco (abandoned by Qantas) or Los Angeles. So where are they going to go?
For all the hype about Jetstar International, its wide-body efforts between Australia and Asia excluding Japan have produced less customer capacity than its direct low-cost wide-body rivals, Singapore Airlines’ subsidiary Scoot with 402 passenger refurbished 777-200ERs to Singapore from Sydney and the Gold Coast and AirAsiaX’s even more tightly crammed 377 seat Airbus A330-300s from the Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth to Kuala Lumpur.
This comparison excludes Japan in order to look at routes where the three wide-body low cost rivals actually compete, which is to SE Asia hubs, and its excludes what is mainly single aisle lift to other ports, because the question is where will the Dreamliners fit in for Jetstar.
Jetstar could deploy them more on its Thailand and Indonesia services. Bali is growing at a rate where single aisle capacity will cease to be adequate or competitive within the medium term, although more activity on those services by Indonesian carriers is more than likely.
Jetstar could also replace A320s on most of its flights to NZ with 787s, but it would expose it to excess capacity, particularly from approval pending Qantas partner, Emirates, which flies multiple A380s and 777-300ERs on routes to Auckland and Christchurch.
It is not surprising that the stories about the 787-8s going to Qantas to replace its aging domestic 767s persist, despite Qantas denials, and in the face of a complete cabin remake for these old but comfortable Boeings.
An explanation of the Jetstar 787 strategy might be given at the Qantas annual general meeting on 2 November, which could prove very interesting for an even wider range of reasons.