Jetstar to add Darwin-Manila

October 17, 2010

Qantas low cost carrier Jetstar Airways is set to fly Darwin to Manila on a thrice-weekly A320 services early 2011, as part of its pan Asia strategy.

The airline will fly on February 9 and every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Introductory fares to the Philippine capital is on sale at $99 each way. Thereafter, normal fares will start from $360, including luggage and taxes, and still below the $900 starting prices as charged by Qantas and Philippine Airlines for the route sectors.

Jetstar will also start four new services a week from Darwin to Bali, on top of its existing Darwin-Denpasar daily service and a range of non-stop flights to Ho Chi Minh City, in Vietnam which it served four times a week.

The airline intends to connect Darwin's Filipino community and those living in the Northern Territory with its home country and provide a transport pipeline for its foreign workers working in oil and gas exploration industry.

Jetstar plans to provide connecting services from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane via Darwin after the Qantas group resolved landing fee issues with Northern Territory Airports (NTA) in exchange to further develop Darwin International Airport into a long-haul and domestic hub.

"This announcement is closely aligned to Jetstar's pan Asia strategy and the continued sustainable expansion of Jetstar with a strong and even better connected route network between Australia and South East Asia," Jetstar Group CEO, Bruce Buchanan, said.

Jetstar's dispute with the airport had been two years running, during which time the airline had threatened to move its north Australian hub to Broome.

The new pricing agreement gives both the airport operator and Qantas Group “the certainty they need [to] grow their businesses and provides us with the confidence to proceed with our terminal expansion,” says airport Chief Executive Ian Kew.

The Qantas Group won't however disclose details about the new agreement with Darwin Airport but it is understood to cover amount Jetstar will now be charged on the use of the airport for international transit passengers as its hub into Southeast Asia.

Charges have been peg to more than $80 for a return passenger trip, that includes security fee which is highest in Australia.

"The proposed future linking of Darwin and Manila will see Jetstar's fledging Australian operations further connect in with Jetstar brand services from Singapore that operate multi-daily to the Philippines capital via our primary Asian hub at Singapore Changi Airport." Buchanan adds.

Following the agreement, the Airport Authority immediately unveiled plans to invest A$100 million (US$97.8 million) in airport facilities over the next 10 years, including a A$33.5 million terminal expansion.

Darwin intends to establish itself as the primary connecting hub for narrow-body operations between Australia and Southeast Asia. Its location on the north coast is ideal for a one stop hub from Melbourne and Sydney all the way to Manila.

Jetstar chief commercial officer David Koczkar said Darwin, interstate, and international flyers would benefit from more choice and service flexibility and greater access for flights into the Northern Territory capital.

"Our intention to operate a future Darwin-Manila service will greatly appeal in the Philippines and importantly locally in Darwin where a new direct link to Asia can support ongoing business investment and where the Filipino-Australian community is amongst the largest in the city," Mr Koczkar said.

Consuelo Jones, spokesperson for the Philippine Department of Tourism - Australia/New Zealand, was buoyed by the new services.

"The Philippines totally welcomes the increase in direct services from Jetstar - it will definitely boost our visitor numbers," Ms Jones said to e-Travel Blackboard.

"The Department of Tourism certainly sees Australia as one of the major suppliers of inbound tourism to the Philippines. In fact, Australian arrivals to the Philippines ranked sixth in the first half of 2010, posting a 10 per cent increase over the same period last year."

''The essence of making a hub work is for a hub to actually be a hub - to support the ability of people to transfer through and use Darwin as a stopover,'' says Simon Westaway, spokesman for Jetstar.

''The population of Darwin alone cannot support what Jetstar wants to do out of the top end of Australia. We need to be able to leverage the infrastructure, given the high level of investment we've made in the community. We've based the equivalent of four aircraft in Darwin. We have upwards of 200 personnel in Darwin - cabin crew, pilots, engineers and an airport workforce.''

Jetstar already announce that the twice-daily services from Darwin to Singapore will be reduced to once a day in December when the airline begins a Melbourne-Singapore service using 303-seat Airbus A330-200s .The Qantas Group also announced plans to reintroduce CityFlyer services between Melbourne and Darwin from May 2011, with an initial three return flights per week.

The Qantas Group accounts for 85% of the traffic at Darwin.

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