Citing strict border restrictions, Jetstar Asia is continuing the suspension of most of its services until the end of May. The Singapore based low-cost carrier first suspended services in mid-March as governments in the region began implementing travel bans. Since then, Jetstar Asia has continued to extend suspensions as the crisis rolls on.
Closed borders see travel demand plummet
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe, Singapore closed its borders to visitors in March. The country also closed its airport to transit passengers. Other governments in the region enacted similar practices. This resulted in a rapid drop in current and forward bookings for Jetstar Asia.
Several weeks later, those suspensions were extended until mid-May. At the time, a Jetstar spokesperson said;
“As border restrictions across the region remain firmly in place, and with the Singapore Government introducing new stricter circuit-breaker measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Jetstar Asia will extend the suspension of all scheduled services until May 19.”
The suspensions saw Jetstar Asia’s fleet of 18 Airbus A320s grounded, and the majority of its 800 odd employees sent off on a combination of paid and unpaid leave.
The airline usually flies to 24 destinations across 12 countries, mostly around South East Asia but also up China and down to Darwin.
In mid-April, Jetstar Asia resumed some limited flights from Singapore to Manila, Kuala Lumpur, and Bangkok. The services remain operating but are only available to citizens and residents of the destination country or to those with written approval to travel.
Jetstar Asia a foundation low-cost carrier in Singapore
Jetstar Asia has been flying in the region since 2004. Qantas, the founder of the Jetstar brand, has a 49% stake in Jetstar Asia and was involved in its setup. Back in 2004, Singapore’s Temasek Holdings also jumped aboard. Temasek Holdings own Singapore Airlines.
In 2009, Temasek Holdings exited Jetstar Asia, selling to Singapore’s Westbrook Investments who retain a 51% in Jetstar Asia.
Following their exit, Temasek Holdings set up its own low-cost carrier, Scoot.
Scorched by Scoot
Scoot operates as a Singapore Airlines subsidiary and has gone from strength to strength. Jetstar Asia has languished in comparison.
In 2010, Jetstar Asia had 27% of the low-cost airline market out of Singapore. That has since shrunk to under 15%. Scoot has snared 43% of the low-cost airline market out of Singapore. Before the downturn and groundings, Scoot had more than double the aircraft and flew to nearly three times the destinations in comparison to Jetstar Asia.
As well as Jetstar Asia, the COVID-19 crisis has knocked both Singapore Airlines and Scoot for six. But Jetstar Asia’s declining market share and overall flat performance have seen speculation build the airline’s days may be numbered.
The current crisis and subsequent travel downturn have ramped up this speculation about Jetstar Asia’s future.
Some see the airline’s grounding as an easy out for Jetstar Asia’s owners.
Singapore’s low-cost carriers have evolved
While Jetstar Asia might have been an early mover into Singapore’s low-cost airline market, the market has grown and evolved considerably in the last decade. Jetstar Asia isn’t the only low-cost carrier to have struggled in Singapore recently. AirAsia hasn’t made an enormous success of its forays into Singapore either.
Both Jetstar Asia and AirAsia are competing against a surging local low-cost carrier with home ground advantages and the resources of a considerable parent company behind it. But they can’t really complain, Jetstar and AirAsia enjoy similar positions in their respective home markets.
At present, Jetstar Asia’s suspensions will run until 31 May. It is offering affected passengers travel vouchers. These vouchers can be organized via Jetstar’s website.