Executive Traveller exclusive
Jetstar will shift most of its Boeing 787 jets into extended storage at Alice Springs next month, where they'll wait out a restart of international flying – which now looks increasingly like being a 2022 proposition.
While Qantas has been able to find work for many of its own Boeing 787-9s, from cargo-only services to special repatriation flights, Jetstar's fleet of eleven Boeing 787-8s has remained grounded at Jetstar's Avalon base since March 2020.
The Dreamliners typically cover international routes into Asia – including Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam – as well as Hawaii, with those flights now on sale for travel from July 1, in common with the proposed international reboot of parent Qantas.
That timeframe has been disputed by the federal government, with Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack saying "decisions about when international travel resumes will be made by the Australian Government," while Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy suggests that widespread international travel is unlikely in 2021.
A spokesperson for Jetstar confirmed to Executive Traveller "we are planning to relocate the majority of our 787 aircraft from Avalon to Alice Springs in the coming weeks. Once international travel borders open, we will look to operate our 787 aircraft in line with demand. At this stage our international flights are back on sale from 1 July."
The dry Northern Territory climate offers a better environment for longer-term aircraft storage than Avalon, which experiences higher levels of moisture due to its proximity to Port Phillip Bay.
Once sequestered in the red centre, it's estimated that the restart process would take around four weeks to see the Boeing 787s return from storage to sky.
The Airbus A320 remains Jetstar's best bet
Even if the long-awaited 'trans-Tasman travel bubble' opens up, it's expected that Jetstar's smaller Airbus A320-family aircraft would continue to be better fit for the Australia-New Zealand routes.
As previously reported, Jetstar has also pushed back the delivery of its longer-range Airbus A321neo LR jets, the first of which was slated for delivery in August 2020 with all 18 streaming through by the middle of 2022.
The A321neo LR aircraft were intended to not only open up new international destinations but also had the potential to do double-duty by flying to nearby Asian routes such as Bali overnight while being pressed into domestic service during the day.
When the order was placed in June 2019, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce deliberately left the door open for Qantas adding some of the A321XLRs to its red-tailed fleet for flights into Asia.
"It can fly routes like Cairns-Tokyo or Melbourne-Singapore, which existing narrow-bodies can’t, and that changes the economics of lots of potential routes into Asia to make them not just physically possible but financially attractive," Joyce remarked.
“We’ll take a decision closer to the time about which parts of the Group will use these aircraft, but there is plenty of potential across Qantas and Jetstar."