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Jetstar lands Beijing rights, eyes Europe

JETSTAR is expected to begin flights to Beijing after finally gaining airport landing slots but will have to wait longer before it can fly onwards to Europe because it lacks the necessary traffic rights.

JETSTAR is expected to begin flights to Beijing after finally gaining airport landing slots but will have to wait longer before it can fly onwards to Europe because it lacks the necessary traffic rights.

The expansion of Jetstar's footprint in Asia comes as speculation grows about the loss-making routes its parent, Qantas, will cut as part of a review of its international operations.

Analysts believe the routes most likely to be ditched include those to Buenos Aires and Bangkok.

Qantas flies to Europe via Singapore and Bangkok, and it is likely Jetstar will take over services to the Thai capital because the Asian nation is a popular destination for leisure travellers.

The chief executive of Jetstar, Bruce Buchanan, is due to make a "significant announcement" in Beijing today about the no-frills airline's pan-Asian network.

It was unclear yesterday whether Jetstar would be offering direct flights between Australia and Beijing or its Singapore affiliate, Jetstar Asia, widening its reach into the fast-growing Chinese market. The chief executive of Jetstar Asia, Chong Phit Lian, is also due in Beijing for the "network announcement".

A Jetstar spokeswoman declined to comment further.

Jetstar does not offer direct flights between Australia and China but Jetstar Asia has services from its Singapore base to multiple destinations on the Chinese mainland including Shanghai and Guilin.

The budget airline has been seeking landing slots in Beijing for the past three years.

In March, the Australian and Chinese governments agreed to increase the cap on the number of seats on flights between the two countries. Chinese airlines have increased flights to Australia over the past year.

Qantas has previously expressed interest in building a base in China as part of a launch pad for flights by itself or Jetstar to Europe, despite a choppy history in the country. The group does have the necessary air rights from Chinese authorities to fly to Europe but it is yet to gain approval from European regulators.

Qantas operates six flights a week between Sydney and China's business capital, Shanghai. The airline does not fly to Beijing, which is regarded as more of a leisure destination.

Qantas shares experienced their biggest fall in four months yesterday, closing down 9.5? at $1.84, as pilot strike action looms and investors consider it likely that Tiger Airways will remain operating in Australia.

Virgin Australia fell almost 9 per cent, or 3?, to 31?.

Analysts attributed the fall in airline stocks to a market-wide sell-off rather than the impact of a carbon tax on domestic jet fuel. "It was pretty much as we thought," CBA Equities analyst Matt Crowe said of the tax.

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