Jetstar joins meal-high club
By Scott Rochfort
December 20, 2004
Passengers will soon be offered hot meals and hand-held TV sets on Jetstar flights, as it looks for ways to sell itself in its bruising air fare battle with Virgin Blue.
Following the growing trend by budget airlines worldwide to find new ways to squeeze money out of passengers once they are inside the plane, Jetstar, the Qantas offshoot, plans to hire out portable Digeplayer devices with enough memory to hold up to 50 movies, TV shows and computer games.
Along with subsidising its latest discount sale of 300,000 one-way tickets, Jetstar will head off Virgin Blue's plans for live pay TV systems in the back of all its seats from June next year. Jetstar reckons the two-kilogram devices will also give it the cost edge over Virgin.
Aside from installation costs, Jetstar reckons Virgin's system will lead to higher fuel costs, given that fitted TV sets add at least 900 kilograms to the weight of a Boeing 737.
"We don't knock other people's technology, but we want something that will be cost effective," airline spokesman Simon Westaway said.
Virgin Blue has hinted that it will charge about $5 a flight to watch live pay TV, but Jetstar is yet to indicate a price.
Virgin Blue chief executive Brett Godfrey said the portable systems represented another case of Qantas "wanting to play catch-up" with his airline. He doubted that video-playing Digeplayers would have any success on short trips in Australia, where most time-limited passengers generally wanted to watch the news or sport, not a movie.
Jetstar chief executive Alan Joyce said his airline now wanted to serve hot meals because of a "significant improvement" of on-board food, drinks and merchandise sales.
But Jetstar and Virgin have a way to go before they match the Irish budget carrier Ryanair's onboard revenue-raising antics. In October Ryanair began selling scratch-card games for €2 ($3.50), in which passengers could win a car, flight voucher or another scratch card.