HONG Kong, Tapei and Korea are potential targets for Jetstar joint ventures as the airline moves to strengthen its presence in North Asia and build a network in China.
The airline is well on its way to building a presence in China with nine destinations serviced from Singapore and up to three more on the way.
Chief executive Bruce Buchanan unveiled a strategy yesterday for "surrounding" the world's fastest-growing aviation market as the low-cost carrier builds up up its presence.
And he did not rule out forming a domestic joint venture in China if the opportunity arose but indicated this was likely to be years away.
"We want to build the brand ahead of . . . getting more and more established in the marketplace," he said.
"So what you'll see I think from us is connecting the dots first up."
Mr Buchanan said this would mean further growth into China from existing joint ventures in Singapore, Vietnam, Japan and possibly out of Australia.
Jetstar has turned its attention to North Asia because the market in the region is underserved compared with other regions.
It is believed Jetstar officials are visiting China weekly.
Mr Buchanan said it was difficult to say how long it would take to crack the market because it was moving rapidly and the landscape was changing continually.
But the emergence of China's first low-cost carrier, Shanghai's privately backed Spring Airlines, was a good sign.
He believed there were longer-term opportunities to work in the marketplace but the focus over the next few years was building on routes into China.
Even so, he would not say categorically that Jetstar's next joint venture would not be in China.
"Anything's possible and China's a very broad definition as well," he said.
"There are many different parts of China."
Asked if this meant using Hong Kong or Tapei as another springboard into China, he said they were two possibilities.
"Tapei and Hong Kong are two points that we've operated in for a long time and are two points that are opportunities to operate into China," Mr Buchanan said.
He also nominated Thailand, The Philippines and Korea as opportunities.
"It's about . . . how you surround and service China from many, many different points because then you get a really compelling network irrespective of what the domestic footprint is," he said.
"But we're always going to be on the watch about what opportunities there are to do stuff domestically in China as well."
Mr Buchanan had emphasised earlier the need to use local expertise in Asia with a strong local leader, pointing to Jetstar Asia's Singaporean management team as a key factor in Jetstar Asia's turnaround.
Patience was also critical, he said at an Australian American Association lunch in Sydney.
"It took me 50 visits to Japan and five years of lobbying through multiple different channels, and talking at different forums to get approvals to start Jetstar Japan," he said.
"It's one of those things: you have to be very focused and very patient and make sure you have the right people around you."
Mr Buchanan joined Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce in rejecting claims of a cross-subsidy between Qantas and Jetstar.
Unions have questioned Qantas claims that its international arm is losing money, saying some of this is due to cross-subsidisation for Jetstar.
Although Qantas had provided some services to Jetstar in its early days, Mr Buchanan said the legacy airline's cost base had been too high for Jetstar and most of those services had quickly been put out to competitive tender and there were now "very, very few" shared services.
But one of those services, however, was treasury activity, where the airlines would do the same currency and fuel hedging through a single point to ensure they were not taking counter positions.
"One of the reasons we have been successful where every other low-cost carrier set up by a full-cost carrier has failed is we don't take any of the IT, we don't take any accounts payable, any of the people functions," Mr Buchanan said.
"Everything is run completely independently so the business, day to day, is run as a self-contained unit."