Macau first stop for Jetstar Pacific
The first international services of Jetstar Pacific Airlines are to Macau because the Vietnamese low-cost carrier sees little competition and huge potential in this corner of the Pearl River Delta market.
On Friday Jetstar Pacific began flying to Macau from Hanoi once a day and from the central Vietnamese city of Da Nang twice a day.
Jetstar Pacific’s director for Greater China, Apotter Zhang, told Business Daily after a ceremony to mark the start of the airline’s services to Macau: “Macau is actually a huge market, but the perceptions of Macau by many people are still stuck in the past.”
Jetstar Pacific is run by Jetstar Pacific Airlines Joint Stock Aviation Co. The biggest shareholders in the company are government-owned Vietnam Airlines and the Qantas Airways Ltd group of Australia.
Until Friday Jetstar Pacific was a purely domestic airline.
But since Vietnam Airlines bought 66.9 percent of Jetstar Pacific in 2012, the controlling shareholder has pushed the low-cost carrier to tap the northeast Asian market, particularly the Greater China market.
“We have done a lot of market research, and found Macau, situated conveniently in the Pearl River Delta, has a large pool of customers,” Mr Zhang said.
He said his airline aimed to serve visitors to Macau and was confident that the market was there.
The airline’s flights to and from Macau were almost fully booked, he said.
Official data show Macau had 29.3 million visitors last year, 63 percent of them mainlanders.
In the first two months of this year 67 percent of visitors were mainlanders.
No data are available showing how many visiting mainlanders are on their way to or from Vietnam.
Mr Zhang said his airline also chose Macau as the destination of its first services to Greater China because competition for landing and take-off slots here was light.
“It is easier to get good slots here, considering we are only just starting international services,” he said, “as the airport here is less busy.”
Last year Macau International Airport handled about 5 million passengers, while Hong Kong International Airport handled 59.9 million and Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport 52.4 million.
Jetstar Pacific’s ambitions match those of Macau International Airport Co Ltd.
The airport operator said this year it aimed to increase the number of international services to Macau to 18 this year from 12 now.
Mr Zhang expressed confidence that his airline’s fares are competitive.
A return ticket from Hanoi or Da Nang costs about 1,000 patacas (US$125), excluding tax.
Air Macau flies to Hanoi twice a week and to Da Nang four times a week.
Vietnam Airlines flies to Macau from Da Nang twice a week.
Mr Zhang said Jetstar Pacific aimed to start more international services in the near future.
Vietnamese newspaper Tuoi Tre quoted Jetstar Pacific’s general director, Le Hong Ha, as saying the airline would begin flying to Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong after it had expanded its fleet of aircraft. The airline now flies five Boeing 737s and two Airbus A320s.
Mr Zhang has a personal reason for gratification that Macau is the destination of Jetstar Pacific’s first international services.
“I am a Macau resident and Macau is my home,” he said.