Mounting cost of delays due to regulatory hold-ups has raised questions about the risk of Qantas' investments in budget airlines in Asia. Photo: Pat Scala
Jetstar's offshoot in Japan has been forced to keep new planes on the ground because regulators have delayed a decision on whether they will allow the budget airline to set up a second base in the Asian nation.
The mounting cost of delays to Jetstar's planned expansion in Japan and Hong Kong due to regulatory hold-ups has raised questions about the risk of Qantas' investments in budget airlines in Asia.
Another of the budget airline's affiliates has parked at least three new A320s indefinitely at Airbus' manufacturing base in Toulouse, France, since late last year. Those are destined for Jetstar Hong Kong, whose launch of services is in limbo while the city's regulators decide whether to allow it to fly.
Jetstar confirmed that a small number of planes were on the ground in Toulouse and at Tokyo's Narita Airport awaiting deployment but would not reveal the exact number. Sources say at least four of Jetstar Japan's 18 A320s - all of which are leased - remain on the ground.
The Qantas budget offshoot also declined to put a figure on the cost of the parked aircraft in Japan and France, emphasising that some of those in Tokyo would be used as ''operational spares''.
The cost of leasing a new A320 is estimated at $US320,000 ($359,000) a month. Jetstar Japan also faces a larger bill for parking planes at a major airport such as Narita.
Jetstar Hong Kong is considering options to manage the planes it is due to take delivery of as the regulatory process for its bid to launch services drags on. The airline had originally flagged the middle of last year as the launch date, but its plans have faced opposition from Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific.
Jetstar Japan and Jetstar Hong Kong are joint ventures between Qantas and local companies.
Independent senator Nick Xenophon, a critic of Qantas management, said the need to park planes was evidence its strategy for Jetstar in Asia was unravelling. ''Instead of being a saviour for Qantas, the Jetstar Asia strategy is turning into a big black hole,'' he said.
But a Jetstar spokeswoman said the group's plane-order strategy allowed for a ''flexible approach with the allocation of flying resources'', and it would continue to expand operations this year.