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Jetstar, Kingfisher `in talks' for international routes

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Hopes to get early departure time slot from Bangalore

MS CHONG PHIT LIAN, CEO, Jetstar Asia and Valuair, addressing a press conference in Bangalore on Friday. G.R.N. Somashekar
MS CHONG PHIT LIAN, CEO, Jetstar Asia and Valuair, addressing a press conference in Bangalore on Friday. G.R.N. Somashekar

Our Bureau

Bangalore, June 9

Kingfisher Airlines is learnt to be in talks with low-cost Singapore-based Jetstar Asia to use its air rights to start its international operations from Singapore.

While Jetstar Asia's Chief Executive Officer, Ms Chong Phit Lian, declined to comment on whether the airline was in talks with the Vijay Mallya-owned Kingfisher Airlines, she admitted that her airline was willing to talk to any of the airlines in India to discuss such an arrangement. "We are open to talk to any airlines who want to have such an arrangement with us," Ms Chong said.

Kingfisher Airlines is also learnt to be in talks with at least four more international airlines for such an arrangement. But the talks are still at a preliminary stage because the airline will start taking delivery of one of its first wide-bodied aircraft, the A340-500s, only towards the end of 2007.

The current aviation policy does not allow domestic airlines to operate on international routes until they complete five years in operation. In case the airline is able to clinch a deal with an international airline, it will use that airline's licence to fly into India.

Time slot for Bangalore

Ms Chong said the airline had been unable to pick up enough passengers from Kolkata and hence had withdrawn its flights from there. "We could not get enough passengers and hence had to withdraw our services from Kolkata," she said. Bangalore is the only other destination Jetstar flies to but even here the passenger load factor is between 40 per cent and 50 per cent.

Jetstar started flights from Bangalore early this year but has been unable to increase the load factor because it has not been able to get suitable time slots. "We hope to get an early departure time slot from Bangalore," Ms Chong said.

Profits by 2009

Jetstar Asia, a Singapore-owned company, has significant Qantas holding. It has a fleet of six A320s, all of which are on lease. Ms Chong said the low-cost airline expects to start making profits by 2009. She said the turnaround time for each of its aircraft is between 45 minutes and one hourand coupled with better utilisation of aircraft, the airline is on the right track to break even soon. "We now have a critical mass of routes, which allows us to provide seamless transfers for a passenger from one point in our network to another," Ms Chong said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated June 10, 2006)
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