Update: Jetstar Asia (3K) has now resolved its dispute with CAG and will move to T4 along with Jetstar Australia (JQ) on 22nd March 2023.
There’s news this week from Jetstar and the Changi Airport Group (CAG) regarding the contentious issue of the carrier’s proposed move to Terminal 4 this month, with confirmation that the shift will not take place as first announced by the airport operator back in July.
Both Jetstar and CAG have now concluded “a joint study on the airline’s operations at the airport”, but have yet to finalise an agreement, according to Channel News Asia.
While this doesn’t rule out any future terminal move, it means that for now passengers departing on Jetstar flights from Changi Airport will continue to check in and be processed through Terminal 1, where the airline benefits from connectivity with several partner airlines including Qantas and Emirates.
Jetstar’s spat with CAG
On 22nd July this year, CAG confirmed that Terminal 4 would reopen on 13th September, but perhaps the most surprising part of the announcement was that long-time Terminal 1 tenant Jetstar would also be moving to the reopened facility, from late October 2022.
That news seemed to come as a surprise to Jetstar itself!
The Jetstar Group, which at Changi includes operators Jetstar Australia (JQ) and locally-based Jetstar Asia (3K) released a swift rebuke just an hour later, to what it labelled a “disappointing” announcement by CAG, saying the decision was “unilateral” and telling the airport it had “no intention” of moving to T4.
CAG later released a media statement saying that Jetstar had been aware of plans to move its operations to T4, even before COVID-19, but it was clear this was set to become a spicy squabble to watch with interest!
Since then even politicians have weighed in, with Singapore Transport Minister S. Iswaran saying in late August that it was “important to do this well rather than do this fast”, when quizzed on the timeline of the proposed move.
Connectivity is the problem for Jetstar
Terminal 4 first opened in October 2017, with capacity for 16 million passengers per year. Replacing the former Budget Terminal, it is now home to a mix of low-cost and full-service carriers, but is not physically connected to Changi’s main T1/2/3 complex.
T4’s physical separation from Changi’s other terminals makes it well-suited to airlines operating point-to-point services with few connecting passengers, but it doesn’t work so well for Jetstar’s model, which relies on transit travellers.
Instead of landside and airside SkyTrain connections, T4 is linked to the other terminals by shuttle buses, running at the following frequencies:
- Landside 6am – Midnight: Every 6-13 mins
- Landside Midnight – 6am: Every 31 mins
- Airside 24 hours: Every 10-13 mins
Jetstar depends heavily on connecting traffic at Changi to and from its own services, those of Qantas and Emirates, plus several codeshare and interline partners including Finnair, British Airways, Air France, KLM and Qatar Airways.
Prior to COVID-19, a third of Jetstar Asia’s passenger traffic was comprised of transit passengers, around the same proportion Singapore Airlines carries through Changi.
For T1-T1 connections, like Qantas to/from Jetstar Asia, itineraries with a Minimum Connection Time (MCT) of only 1 hour are currently sold to passengers.
The standard MCT for T1 to T4 transfers is published as 1 hour 30 minutes, which will make some connections impossible without flights needing to be re-timed.
Jetstar’s 20 partners at Changi
Jetstar has six codeshare partners and a further 14 interline partners at Changi, whose passengers begin or end their journey using one of the carrier’s flights, with Singapore acting as a ‘transit hub’ in the middle.
For codeshares, the flights carry the same IATA code as the validating carrier selling the ticket (e.g. Qantas, Emirates or KLM), but are actually operated by Jetstar or Jetstar Asia.
This allows airlines like KLM to publish and market flights to and from certain destinations (e.g. Surabaya) as part of their own schedule with their own flight number, even though one or more flight segments is operated by the codeshare partner (e.g. KL4867 from Surabaya to Singapore is actually operated by Jetstar Asia as 3K248).
On the interline side, this is where flights from different carrier codes (e.g. BA and 3K) are mixed in a single PNR itinerary (booking reference). Baggage is checked from the origin point to the final destination, with all boarding cards also typically issued at the origin airport.
As with codeshares, in interline agreements airlines also provide free rebooking in the event of missed connections, protecting the itinerary for travellers in the event of delays.
|Swiss International Air Lines
As you can see, nine of Jetstar’s 14 interline partners at Changi operate at T1, with the others at either T2 or T3. The airline has no partners operating at T4.
Another major issue for Jetstar, if they were forced to operate from T4, is lounge access for Qantas frequent flyers, and those connecting from Qantas and some other partner flights in Business or First Class, who currently enjoy access to one of the airline’s two lounges in T1 before their Jetstar flight.
Terminal 4 has a Cathay Pacific lounge, which is temporarily closed but in any event only caters to the airline’s own passengers, due to T4’s isolation (other departing oneworld passengers can’t visit T4).
Since Jetstar is not a oneworld carrier, its passengers would not be eligible to use the Cathay lounge anyway, unless an access arrangement was reached.
There is also a third-party Blossom Lounge in T4, which has reopened and accepts paid entry and Priority Pass members, but Jetstar and Qantas are unlikely to want to go to the expense of having an access arrangement there for frequent flyers departing on Jetstar services, given how much their own T1 lounges cost them!
Another announcement is due
According to the identical statements made by both Jetstar and CAG this week, an announcement regarding the final decision on arrangements for the airline’s operations at the airport will be made soon.
In our view, this could go one of three ways.
- Jetstar continues to operate from T1, with CAG finding another solution to address capacity issues there.
- Jetstar moves to T4 at a later date, with some concessions made to ensure connecting passengers can be handled as seamlessly as possible.
- A compromise deal – Jetstar remains in T1 for now but moves to T2, Changi’s largest terminal, once it fully reopens in 2024.
While it has not been mentioned by either side, nor in any media reports, the third option must surely be on the table as a kind of “less ideal but better than T4” compromise for Jetstar.
T2 will have 39 contact gates and capacity for 28 million passengers annually once its renovation is completed in 2024, compared to 32 contact gates and a capacity of 24 million passengers annually in T1.
Before COVID, T2 became under-utilised as Scoot moved across to T1, but this was largely so that redevelopment work could start to be undertaken.
Jetstar could potentially fit in T2 once its revamp is complete, though in turn this may require some former T2 tenants to shift to T4, a merry-go-round CAG may wish to avoid.
Some of Jetstar’s existing interline partners at Changi are likely to return to their former T2 home by 2024, including Lufthansa, Swiss and United, so such a move would actually be beneficial for some connecting passengers.
Meanwhile those with Qantas lounge access departing on Jetstar would probably only have to set off from these pre-flight pads around 10-15 minutes earlier than they do now, depending on which T2 gate their Jetstar flight was departing from.
It will be interesting to see which scenario eventually plays out for Jetstar.
Jetstar will not move its operations to Changi Airport’s Terminal 4 this month, as was first announced by CAG back in July, instead remaining in its Terminal 1 home alongside most of its codeshare and interline partner carriers.
Qantas status holders flying on Jetstar will therefore retain access to the carrier’s two lounges, prior to their flights.
It remains to be seen whether the airline will eventually be relocated to T4, with a subsequent announcement still to be made, now that a joint study on the potential move has been completed.
A compromise of sorts could also have been reached, with Jetstar moving to Terminal 2. Though it’s just a theory on our part – we think it makes some sense if a stalemate was reached between the two sides over the T1/T4 argument.
Stay tuned for the latest on this saga once we hear more.
(Cover Photo: Shutterstock)