Jetstar Japan pushes the boundary for low cost travel

JETSTAR Japan – a budget joint-venture of partners Qantas, Japan Airlines, Mitsubishi Corporation and Century – took off on July 3 from Tokyo’s Narita Airport for Sapporo, less than a year after its inception was announced and five months ahead of schedule.

This put Jetstar Japan ahead of a similar joint-venture – AirAsia Japan – announced by rivals All Nippon Airways and AirAsia, which expect to launch the budget carrier in August. It looks like the competition has already heated up.

The target is Japan’s domestic market, at least for now. Qantas chief Alan Joyce said: “There’s a huge appetite for low fare travel options in this market.”

For Qantas, which is eyeing the growing Asian market and the growing demand for budget travel to boost the group’s earnings, this is an achievement. The Australian airline company has found its fortune shifting to domestic and budget operations while its premium international operations struggle in red ink.

It is also a step forward in expanding the Jeststar network and growing its brand – the same strategy adopted by AirAsia to dot the Asian region with its brand of joint-ventures. Jetstar already has roots in Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam. Jetstar Hong Kong – a joint venture with China Eastern Airlines to tap the lucrative Chinese market – is expected to take to the skies in 2013 if all goes well according to plans.

Mr Joyce said Jetstar Japan would reshape domestic travel in Japan. There is no secret here. Cost is the key criterion. Jetstar Japan CEO Miyuki Suzuki said: “Our low domestic fares will see Jetstar become part of the fabric of everyday life for thousands of Japanese who can now afford to fly with us to see friends and family or have a weekend away.” This is an important consideration in a country which is also served by an efficient system of roads and rails.

The airline claims its fares are the lowest in the market and up to 50 per cent lower than full service fares. It is enticing customers with a Price Beat Guarantee that Jetstar Japan will beat any comparable fare by 10 per cent. It will be interesting to find out what rival AirAsia Japan has in store for its customers when it commences operations.

How low can the fare go? And what gives in an operation that is already without frills? We may not have to wait long to find out.


About David Leo
David Leo has more than 30 years of aviation experience, having served in senior management in one of the world's best airlines and airports. He continues to maintain a keen interest in the business, writes freelance and provides consultancy services in the field.

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