Jetstar has resumed direct flights between Australia and Vietnam for the first time in five years.
Flight JQ63, operated with Boeing 787-8 VH-VKH took off from Melbourne Tullamarine a little after 1545 on Wednesday bound for Ho Chi Minh City.
The Qantas-owned low-cost carrier (LCC) will operate three flights a week from Melbourne and four flights a week from Sydney to Ho Chi Minh City.
Jetstar last served Vietnam in 2012, when it ended narrowbody flights on the Darwin-Ho Chi Minh City route. Previously, the LCC also had a short-lived Airbus A330-200 service from Australia’s east coast to Ho Chi Minh City.
“There is enormous potential for Vietnam to become one of the most popular destinations for Australian travellers thanks to its wonderful year-round climate and great beaches, food and culture,” Jetstar Australia and New Zealand chief executive Dean Salter said in a statement on Wednesday.
“We are already the biggest Australian carrier operating into Bali, Phuket and Hawaii – Vietnam is the next step in expanding our international network for budget conscious travellers.”
Jetstar, whose 787-8s are configured with 21 business and 314 economy class seats, joins Vietnam Airlines in offering nonstop flights between Australia and Vietnam. The Vietnamese flag carrier and Skyteam alliance member has daily services to both Melbourne and Sydney from its Ho Chi Minh City hub in addition to three flights a week linking Sydney and Hanoi.
Qantas, which owns 100 per cent of Jetstar Australia and New Zealand, places its QF airline code on Vietnam Airlines’ two Australian routes.
Further, Qantas and Vietnam Airlines are joint shareholders in Jetstar Pacific, with the Australian company holding a 30 per cent stake in the Vietnam-based LCC and Vietnam Airlines owning the remaining 70 per cent.
Salter, who was on board Wednesday afternoon’s flight from Melbourne said passengers could connect onwards to 15 domestic destinations in Vietnam on the Jetstar Pacific network.
Flight schedules of the proposed Melbourne and Sydney to Ho Chi Minh flights
Jetstar is boosting the capacity on its Australia and New Zealand based Airbus A320 narrowbodies through the installation of slimline seats, reducing galley space and moving the lavatories.
The Qantas-owned low-cost carrier (LCC) will reconfigure 43 A320s – which operate domestically within Australia and New Zealand, across the Tasman and on short-haul international routes – with new Recaro seats and the Zodiac Aerospace Space Flex version two lavatory and galley module, which allows the removal of the existing rear lavatories.
That will allow an increase in the number of seats to 186, up from 180 currently, which is equivalent to a capacity increase of one and a half A320s but without the capital costs of acquiring additional aircraft, Jetstar group chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka told the Qantas investor day on Friday.
The cabin reconfiguration work will also increase overhead locker space in the rear of the aircraft, plus feature LED cabin lighting, new carpets and a new colour scheme.
Jetstar Australia and New Zealand chief executive Dean Salter said passengers will have the same amount of legroom and space despite the addition of another row of seats on the aircraft, with no change to average seat pitch or seat width.
“This is the latest cabin design from Airbus, which is smarter about the way space is used on the aircraft and allows for an extra row of seats and more baggage space,” Salter said in a statement on Friday.
“The additional six seats improve the economics of these aircraft and help us to keep offering the low fares we are known for and maintain a great customer experience. These aircraft will allow us to carry more customers, particularly at peak times, to holiday destinations.”
A Jetstar spokesperson said Qantas’s Brisbane engineering workshop won a tender to complete part of the cabin reconfiguration work. A second tender covering the remainder of the fleet was yet to conclude.
The first reconfigured aircraft is expected to be flying by August, with the remainder to be completed by the end of 2018.
The change will give Jetstar’s A320s a six-seat advantage over Australian LCC rival Tigerair Australia, whose A320s and Boeing 737-800s are configured with 180 seats.
While Jetstar has 53 A320s in its Australia and New Zealand fleet, only 43 aircraft will be reconfigured as 10 aircraft are due to leave the fleet and be replaced by newer narrowbodies such as the A320neo (new engine option), which will arrive in the new configuration, the Jetstar spokesperson told Australian Aviation.
Jetstar also has eight A321s in its Australia and New Zealand narrowbody fleet. Of those, two recently leased A321s arrived with Airbus’s Smart Lav design that features 220 seats. Further, four other A321s are slated to be reconfigured with 220 seats, compared with 210 seats on non-reconfigured aircraft.
In February, Qantas announced a nine-month delay to the first delivery of the 99 Airbus A320neo Family aircraft the airline group has on order, comprising 54 A320neo and 45 of the larger A321neo.
The new delivery timeline pushed the capital expenditure for these new aircraft into the 2018/19 financial year rather than 2017/18.
Offshore affiliates Jetstar Japan, Vietnam-based Jetstar Pacific and Singapore carrier Jetstar Asia are not part of the reconfiguration program.
Other airlines to have fitted the Zodiac Aerospace Space Flex version two include Easyjet, JetBlue and Lufthansa.
Jetstar has started accepting applications for its 2017 pilot cadet program.
The program will be run by CAE Oxford Aviation Academy and Swinburne University in Melbourne, with successful candidates going through an ab initio training course for their Multi Engine Instrument Rating and Multi Crew Cooperation Training and a frozen ATPL.
The cadet pilots will then work towards their type Endorsement on an Airbus A320 or Boeing 787 aircraft.
CAE Oxford Aviation Academy is based at Melbourne’s Moorabbin Airport, while coursework for Swinburne University’s Associate Degree of Aviation will be at the university’s Hawthorn campus.
“Jetstar Australia has recently confirmed that it will be running its cadet pilot program in 2017,” CAE Oxford Aviation Academy said on its website.
“The Jetstar Cadet Pilot Program is now open for applications from suitably qualified candidates.
“This is an exceptional opportunity for aspiring pilots to train under the mentorship of Jetstar and go on to fly as First or Second Officers with the airline.
In October, Qantas started its first external pilot recruitment drive since 2009. The airline planned to hire 170 new pilots over the next three years ahead of the arrival of the Boeing 787-9 in October 2017.
Jetstar is targeting travellers from small- and medium-sized companies with a new business-only flexible fare.
For an additional fee ranging from $29-$34 for domestic flights and $39-$55 for international flights, the FlexBiz bundle offers free flight changes on the day of travel, extra carry-on allowance, seat selection and the option of receiving a credit voucher should the booking be cancelled.
The FlexiBiz bundle can only be purchased by businesses with an Australian Business Number (ABN) who have registered on Jetstar’s Business Hub website, the low-cost carrier said in a statement on Thursday.
It was understood the scheme would also be rolled out for registered businesses in New Zealand and in Singapore, where Jetstar Asia is based.
Jetstar group chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka flagged the introduction of a new business-friendly fare at the recent CAPA – Centre for Aviation Australia Pacific Aviation summit in August.
While the Qantas-owned airline targeted mainly leisure travellers, Hrdlicka said in a statement on Thursday there were a significant number of customers travelling for business on particular routes during peak times.
The FlexiBiz bundle was designed to target these sorts of travellers and was part of the dual-brand strategy alongside Qantas.
“Small business owners and sole traders will find our new FlexiBiz product provides them with much more flexibility and a few other on-board extras at a very good price,” Hrdlicka said.
“Qantas is well-established in the premium corporate travel market, and we want to complement this by ensuring that the other end of the business market is well-catered for.
“Our aim is to further grow our market share of the price-sensitive business market.”
Australia’s major carriers have implemented new fees for payments made with credit and debit cards in line with changes to the way the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) regulates these charges.
Jetstar, Tigerair Australia, Qantas and Virgin Australia have all switched from a fixed fee to one that is calculated as a percentage of the total cost of a ticket. The changes came into effect on Thursday.
While the airlines say passengers are likely to pay less as a result of the changes, those travelling internationally may be charged a higher credit or debit card surcharge under the new system.
The changes were prompted by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) changing the way it regulated credit card surcharges.
The RBA said in May merchants would retain the right to add a surcharge “for more expensive payment methods” under its new surcharging standard.
“However, consistent with the Government’s recent amendments to the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, the new standard will ensure that consumers using payment cards from designated systems (eftpos, the debit and credit systems of MasterCard and Visa, and the American Express companion card system) cannot be surcharged in excess of a merchant’s cost of acceptance for that card system,” the RBA said.
“With the cost of acceptance defined in percentage terms, merchants will not be able to impose high fixed-amount surcharges on low-value transactions, as has been typical for airlines.”
The RBA said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) would have enforcement powers under the new framework, which take effect on Thursday for large merchants, defined as having two of the following attributes: gross revenue of $25 million or more, gross assets worth $12.5 million or more, or with 50 or more employees. All other merchants have until September 1 2017 to comply.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the move to percentage-based surcharges was an expected result of the RBA’s changes.
“The new law has caused many large businesses to review their pricing practices,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.
“We expect to see a move from flat-fee surcharges for purchasing items like flights, towards percentage-based or capped surcharges.
“The new law limits the amount a large business can charge customers for use of payment methods such as most credit and debit cards. Businesses can only pass on the permitted costs of the payment method such as bank fees and terminal costs.”
The ACCC noted figures from the RBA showed the cost to merchants of accepting payments by debit cards was about 0.5 per cent, while it was between one and 1.5 per cent for credit cards and in the region of two to three per cent for American Express cards.
“Some merchants’ costs might be higher than these indicative figures,” the ACCC said.
The ACCC said consumers who believed they had been slugged with an excessive surcharge could contact the ACCC via its website.
Qantas outlined its new fees in early July. Consumers will be charged 0.6 per cent of the fare for paying with a debit card or prepaid card and 1.3 per cent of the fare for credit and charge cards irrespective of whether the flights is for domestic, trans-Tasman or international travel.
The card payment fee would be a capped at $11 for domestic and trans-Tasman flights, and $70 for other international flights.
“The majority of Qantas customers will pay the same or less in card payment fees than they do today, while some customers may pay more. Card payment fee caps will apply per ticket per card so customers will know the maximum amount,” Qantas said in a note to travel agents in July.
“As always we’ll continue our focus on providing great value for money for you and all of our customers through competitive pricing and investment in new products, services and technology.”
Virgin Australia has adopted a similar system, with credit card payments from September 1 attracting an 1.3 per cent surcharge, while debit card payments would have an 0.6 per cent surcharge per booking. As with Qantas, these surcharges were capped at $11 for domestic flights and $70 for international flights. And those purchasing tickets via PayPal would pay $5 per passenger, per booking, Virgin said on its website.
Percentage-based fees have also been introduced at Tigerair, with the Virgin-owned low-cost carrier having a four-tiered charging structure depending on the card used.
Those paying with a Mastercard debit card would be subject to an 0.86 per cent payment, while Visa Debit cards attracted an 0.88 per cent surcharge, Tigerair said in a statement. Previously, payments with Australian-issued Mastercard debit cards were not charged the “booking and service fee” of $8.50 for domestic and $12.50 for international flights.
Tigerair bookings made with Mastercard credit cards had a 1.25 per cent surcharge, while it was 1.33 per cent for Visa credit cards. The airline was also introducing a fee-free payment option through the POLi. The airline does not accept American Express or Diners cards.
There were also multiple payment levels for Jetstar’s flights from and within Australia depending on the payment type – credit cards attracted a 1.06 per cent surcharge, debit cards were at 0.48 per cent and those using PayPal would be subjected to an 0.75 per cent fee.
Those paying by POLi, as well as with Jetstar-branded Mastercards, would not pay any surcharge, Jetstar said.
“The majority of Jetstar customers will pay less in fees than they currently do, and there’ll continue to be fee-free options for customers who prefer not to pay with a credit card,” Jetstar said in an emailed statement.
“These fees cover the costs associated with accepting these payments.”
Qantas and Virgin told a parliamentary inquiry in November 2015 their surcharges and booking fees recovered less than the reasonable cost of processing card payments.
Summary of new payment surcharges at Australian carriers
1.3 per cent for credit cards
0.6 per cent for debit cards
$5 per passenger per booking for PayPal payments
Capped at $11 for domestic flights, and $70 for international flights
$7.70 per person per domestic booking
$10 per person per short-haul international booking
$30 per person per long-haul international booking
1.06 per cent for credit cards
0.48 per cent for debit cards
0.75 per cent for PayPal payments
No fee for Jetstar-issued MasterCard credit cards
$8.50 per passenger per domestic flight
$8.50-$12.50 per passenger per international flight
No fee for Jetstar-issued MasterCard credit cards
0.86 per cent for MasterCard debit cards
0.88 per cent for Visa debit cards
1.25 per cent for MasterCard credit cards
1.33 per cent for Visa credit cards
$8.50 per person per domestic flight
$12.50 per person per international flight
No fee for Australian-issued MasterCard debit cards
0.6 per cent for debit card or prepaid card payments
1.3 per cent for credit and charge cards
Capped at $11 for domestic and trans-Tasman flights, and $70 for other international flights
$7 per person per domestic or trans-Tasman booking
$30 per person per international booking
All airlines also offer at least one fee-free payment option such as POLI or direct debit
Virgin Australia changed its operating procedures for aircraft pushing back from selected gates at Melbourne Tullamarine after an on-the-ground collision with a nearby Jetstar Airbus A320 in 2013, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) says.
The incident, which occurred on August 10 2013, happened when the left wingtip of a Virgin Boeing 737-800 VH-YID pushing back for departure hit the tail cone of a Jetstar A320 VH-VGR that had just arrived from Sydney and was holding short of its gate.
The ATSB’s final report on the incident, published on Thursday, said the ground controller had issued pushback approval to the Virgin 737 located at gate E1 that required the Jetstar A320 to be on gate D2 before pushback could commence.
The Jetstar Airbus ended up stopping short of gate D2 after the automatic nose-in guidance system (NIGS) displayed a “STOP-WAIT” message.
The crew then transmitted to the controller that they were holding short of the gate because of the NIGS, the ATSB report said, then repeated the message about 40 seconds later because the first message had been “over-transmitted by another aircraft”.
“The message was acknowledged by the controller, who requested to be advised when the aircraft was at the gate,” the report said.
As a result, the Jetstar aircraft was not in position before the Virgin aircraft commenced its pushback.
However, the ATSB report said the dispatcher of the Virgin 737 looked under the aircraft and saw that the Jetstar A320 had stopped, then waited for 15-20 seconds “to confirm the aircraft remained stationary”.
“While VGR was actually holding short of the gate, the dispatcher formed the opinion that the aircraft was on the gate based on the observation that it had been stationary for a period of time,” the ATSB said.
“This was consistent with their experience and as a result, they did not move to a position from where they could accurately assess VGR’s location.
“The pushback of the B737 was commenced with insufficient clearance from the A320, which was not identified prior to the collision as the dispatcher’s position to the right-front of the B737 prevented observation of its left wing.”
The left wingtip of the Virgin 737 contacted the tail cone of the Jetstar A320 immediately aft of the operating auxiliary power unit. The tail cone fell to the ground.
While the ATSB report noted that from dispatcher’s perspective, the Virgin 737 obscured most of the Jetstar A320, it was normal practice for Virgin not to use a wing walker during pushback from gate E1.
“Following this occurrence, Virgin Australia Airlines Pty Ltd provided a local instruction to Melbourne Airport ground staff that stipulated the gates that required the presence of a wing walker prior to push back,” the ATSB said.
“Gate E1 was included in that list of gates.”
In terms of the radio communications between the flight crew of the Jetstar A320 and the ground controller, the ATSB said it was “not reasonable to expect that the transmission from VGR could have alerted the crew of YID to the collision risk”.
“In addition, in the lead up to the collision, the crew of VGR were communicating with their company to resolve the issue with the nose-in guidance system at the gate. This limited their ability to identify and therefore react to the collision risk.”
There were no injuries resulting from the incident.
Jetstar is to begin three times weekly direct flights between Adelaide and the Sunshine Coast from September 30, the Qantas-owned low-cost carrier announced on Friday.
The new flights will operate with 180-seat Airbus A320s on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, and add a further 56,000 seats a year into the Sunshine Coast market.
“Our strategy has been to diversify our market base as widely as possible, and the start of direct Jetstar services from Adelaide complements significant growth in direct services from Sydney, Melbourne and across the Tasman,” Visit Sunshine Coast acting CEO Simon Latchford said in a statement.
Jetstar is the second airline to schedule evening flights into and out of Queenstown Airport.
The Qantas-owned low-cost carrier plans to operate a daily Melbourne-Queenstown service with Airbus A320s from June 24 that lands at the popular New Zealand tourist destination at 1920 local time, before turning around and returning to Australia at 2020.
The schedule will be in place until August 31, Jetstar said in a statement on Thursday.
Jetstar’s head of New Zealand Grant Kerr said the airline had finalised its “operator safety case” with regulators, the airport and its own pilots, with the proposed flights now awaiting regulatory approvals.
Kerr said the start of evening flights would offer passengers more options.
“Holidaymakers will be able to take more advantage of short breaks and spend a full day on the slopes before their flight home,” Kerr said in a statement.
“The new schedule also provides better connectivity for customers who are travelling with our long-haul partners to and from Queenstown via Melbourne.”
Air New Zealand announced in January a new evening Auckland-Queenstown service that was due to kick off from July 1.
The addition of evening flights at Queenstown Airport has been in the works for a number of years, as the rising popularity of the city has placed the airport under some pressure at peak periods, particularly during the winter months.
In May 2014, New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) granted provisional approval for Queenstown Airport to extend its operating hours into night flight operations, subject to subject to the airport meeting a number of conditions such as runway improvements and the installation of a comprehensive aeronautical lighting package.
Construction work began in November 2015 and was expected to be completed by April 2016.
Other requirements from the NZ CAA and Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) also included a customised crew selection and training package; employing the full capability of the existing Required Navigation Performance (RNP) technology; and changes to on-board flight procedures to reduce pilot workload on final approach.
The airport has also expanded its terminal facilities to cater for the increased demand.
Queenstown Airport acting chief executive Mark Edghill said evening flights would help spread out the growing number of flights at the airport over a longer period.
“Due to time differences and airport curfews, the majority of our international flights currently arrive between midday and 3pm and need to depart before it gets dark at about 5pm,” Edghill explained in a statement.
“This creates an intense period of activity in order to get aircraft turned around.
“We’re delighted with Jetstar’s plan to shift flights across to evening slots and thank the airline for its continued support and commitment to provide our passengers with more choice and flexibility.”
Edghill said 80 per cent of the airport’s international passengers during the peak winter months were from Australia, up from a year-round figure of 69 per cent.
Better flying conditions in the vicinity of Bali Airport has allowed Virgin Australia and Jetstar to operate some daylight flights from Indonesia back to Australia.
Jetstar has scheduled 11 recovery flights on Thursday, which will operate in daylight hours, while Virgin has planned three flights from Bali to Australia.
“Flying conditions are forecast to remain favourable, with the latest satellite imagery from around Bali indicating we’ll be able to fly daytime services today (Thursday),” Jetstar said in a statement.
“We are contacting customers booked on these services directly and all flights are now fully booked.
“We know this has been a frustrating time for everyone and we hope get all of our customers home as soon as possible.”
The two carriers have hundreds, if not thousands of passengers stranded in Bali after the ash cloud from the Mount Rinjani volcano over the past week has resulted in scores of cancelled flights.
Virgin said night flights from Bali to Australia were under review, while Thursday morning’s flights from Australia to Bali have been cancelled.
Instead, Virgin is ferrying aircraft to Bali to pick up stranded passengers.
“We would like to thank all of our guests for their patience and assure you that we continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure you reach your destination as soon as possible,” Virgin said in a statement.
“The safety of our guests and crew is our highest priority and we will keep you updated as new information becomes available.”
Jetstar is expanding its international network from New Zealand beyond trans-Tasman routes with new flights to the Cook Islands starting in March 2016.
The three times a week service between Auckland and Rarotonga will be operated by Airbus A320s and is Jetstar’s first non-Australian international destination from NZ since it dropped direct Auckland-Singapore services in July 2014.
The Qantas-owned low-cost carrier says the flights will originate from Sydney or Melbourne and it will offer formal connections from Australian-originating passengers, as well as those departing from its NZ domestic ports.
Jetstar head of New Zealand Grant Kerr says the airline will be the first new entrant on the Auckland-Rarotonga route, which is currently served by Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia, in more than 10 years.
“Whenever Jetstar enters a market our low fares help to grow that market,” Kerr said in a statement on Wednesday.
“We expect our new flights to Rarotonga will significantly lift passenger numbers from both New Zealand and Australia, delivering substantial benefits to Cook Islands tourism.”
The flights represent about 25,000 seats a year and would help boost tourism, Cook Islands Tourism general manager Graeme West said.
“Tourism contributes 60 percent of GDP in the Cook Islands so the new services will provide a major boost to the country’s economy,” West said.
“Rarotonga welcomes more than 82,000 visitors from New Zealand each year and the additional Jetstar capacity from March 2016 will allow the market to grow even more.
The Cook Island is Jetstar’s second Pacific Islands destination. It also flies to Nadi, Fiji from Sydney and the Gold Coast.