Chief executive officer of Qantas Group Alan Joyce (L) and Chairman of China Eastern Airlines Ltd. Liu Shaoyong in Hong Kong on March 26. — AFP photo
SYDNEY — Australian flag carrier Qantas and China Eastern Airlines said Monday they will launch a new Hong Kong-based budget airline next year aimed at cashing in on China’s booming aviation market.
The new low-cost Asian carrier, Jetstar Hong Kong, will fly short-haul routes, including in China, Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia, the partners announced.
The move marks a major expansion of Jetstar, Qantas’s budget brand, which flies domestic Australian and Asian routes, and comes as the embattled carrier struggles to refocus on Asia, the world’s fast-growing aviation market.
“This is a unique opportunity to capitalize on the enormous potential of the Greater China market, where the penetration of low-cost carriers is less than five percent,” Jetstar’s Chief Executive Bruce Buchanan said.
Jetstar Hong Kong, which will be a pioneer in the China budget market, will launch in mid-2013 with a fleet of three Airbus A320s, but will increase that number to 18 by 2015.
Greater China boasts a travel market of almost 300 million passengers a year, which is forecast to grow to 450 million by 2015 as middle class spending and travel surge in the vast nation, according to Qantas.
Jetstar Hong Kong’s base will give it a China springboard and a home in one of Asia’s key aviation hubs, through which around 40 million passengers pass each year.