A Jetstar Boeing 777 arriving at Brisbane International Airport. By John Harvey.
Even as China continues to keep the lid on low-cost carriers, foreign budget airlines are prying the door open slowly but surely. Here’s some good news for readers living up north in the capital: Beijing has become Qantas offshoot Jetstar’s tenth destination in China with the launch of the budget airline’s Beijing-Singapore-Melbourne flight, and the carrier plans to add two more Chinese cities this year to reach a total of 12.
Introductory fares start at A$399 one-way in Melbourne, a rate Jetstar hopes will appeal to the estimated 50,000 Chinese expats based in Victoria.
The airline is jostling with Malaysia’s AirAsia to be the premier budget airline of the Asia-Pacific region. Both carriers have extended their brands into the burgeoning low-cost long-haul market while Singapore’s Tiger Airways, which once had high hopes of conquering Asia, sees its pan-Asian dreams flounder. Tiger has reported losses in both Singapore and Australia, where it was recently grounded, and has also faced significant obstacles in expanding into the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand.
This may be why parent company Singapore Airlines is keeping Tiger within the short-haul market while it muscles into the long-haul no-frills market with the launch of a new brand called Scoot, which flies mid-2012 with four Boeing 777-200 jets into China and Australia. Destinations have not been confirmed but here’s hoping Shanghai will be one of them.