Qantas and Jetstar will add nearly 900,000 seats per year to the country’s most competitive east coast routes in a move squarely aimed at rival Virgin Australia.
The increases comes amid a spate of news-making announcement by the airline in recent days, including layoffs of maintenance workers and a restructuring that split Qantas’s domestic and international operations into separate businesses.
The increased services will begin to take effect from July 9, when Qantas will add 11 return flight a week between Sydney-Melbourne. Another 11 weekly returns between Sydney-Brisbane will take to the air from August 23.
Jetstar, meanwhile, will add 21 return flights between Sydney-Melbourne from August 16. The budget carrier will also add seven weekly returns between Sydney and Adelaide, Ballina-Byron and the Gold Coast, respectively, as well as three additional return services between Adelaide-Gold Coast and four between Newcastle-Gold Coast.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the increased services would result in an additional 496,000 Jetstar seats and 400,000 Qantas seats per year throughout the east coast “golden triangle.”
“We know from experience that increasing the number of low fares in these markets will stimulate new travel demand,” Joyce said.
The move is widely seen as opening a new front in a burgeoning airline war between Qantas and Virgin Australia, which has stepped up its challenge to Qantas over the past year as it shifts from budget to full-service carrier. By dumping capacity into the country’s busiest routes, Qantas hopes to put the squeeze on its rival, but analysts say it will also likely reduce its own margins in the process. The substantial increases in Jetstar services, meanwhile, put the budget offshoot increasingly in direct competition with the mainline carrier.
Either way, however, in the short term the increased capacity will likely lead to lower fares for the traveling public.
The announcement comes a day after Qantas and Jetstar said they would scale back flights to Darwin and Uluru amid a prolonged slump in overseas tourism.
Qantas will halve weekly services between Uluru-Cairns from 14 to seven from September. Flights between Uluru-Perth will be cut from four per week to two, also in September, and will then be suspended from October 28.
Jetstar will cut flights between Sydney-Darwin from from 11 per week to seven from August 16 and will reduce flights from Darwin to Denpasar (Bali), Indonesia from 11 to eight.
The cuts come as the Australian tourism industry continues to bear the brunt of the high Aussie dollar, with visitors to Kakadu this year down by 11 per cent and visitors to Uluru down 19 per cent.