Qantas Group is planning to temporarily transfer up to ten A320-200s from its foreign joint ventures to its Australian fleet as the country's domestic market is able to support more capacity than other countries at this time, Chief Executive of low-cost unit Jetstar Airways (JQ, Melbourne Tullamarine) Gareth Evans said during a CAPA Live event.

"We’re looking to bring six of the Jetstar Japan (GK, Tokyo Narita) aircraft down to Australia for a temporary period, not permanently but for two to three years perhaps to provide some capacity for growth to Jetstar domestically and potentially to leverage into Western Australia as well," Evans said.

According to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module, Jetstar Japan currently operates twenty-five Airbus narrowbodies, including twenty-four A320-200s and a single A321-200NX. The single A321neo was contractually delivered to the airline in December 2020 but remains in storage at Erfurt airport and was never ferried to Japan.

The A320s are 7.4 years old on average and are all dry-leased from a variety of lessors. Six aircraft are owned by Tokyo Century, which has a 16.7% stake in Jetstar Japan. The other shareholders of Jetstar Japan are JAL Group with a 50% stake and Qantas Group with a 33.3% stake.

Evans underlined that Jetstar remained committed to its Japanese joint venture but stressed that the Japanese domestic market was rebounding much more slowly than the Australian one. As such, the group could use the aircraft more efficiently in its home market for the time being.

The carrier told ch-aviation that the aircraft would first be ferried to Alice Springs before joining Jestar Airways' fleet. Flightradar24 ADS-B data shows that JA06JJ (msn 5281), JA12JJ (msn 5618), and JA18JJ (msn 5796) are currently parked at the Australian airport.

The six A320s due to be transferred from Jetstar Japan will join four aircraft moved from Jetstar Asia Airways (3K, Singapore Changi) to Australia. In mid-2020, the Singaporean LCC, which does not have a domestic market and relies exclusively on heavily curtailed international routes, announced that it would retire five out of its then eighteen A320-200s. Since then, three aircraft have been transferred to Qantas Group's regional carrier Network Aviation (NWK, Perth Int'l) and operate routes out of Perth Int'l under the QantasLink brand.

Both Jetstar and Jetstar Asia confirmed that the three A320s transferred to Network Aviation were a part of the transaction described by Evans. The identity of the fourth aircraft to be moved to Australia remains unclear.

The group sees significant potential in the Australian domestic market, which is poised to return to its pre-pandemic size, and may even exceed it, relatively quickly. The carrier is already back to 90% of its pre-COVID domestic capacity in Australia and 80% in New Zealand. Evans said the closure of rival LCC Tigerair Australia opened new market opportunities. The airline has not been deterred by the entry of Rex - Regional Express into the mainline market.

"We’re not going to overheat the market, but we’ve got a right to grow and we’re going to do that flexibly using aircraft from elsewhere within our group," Evans said.

Jetstar Airways plans to add its first A321-200NX(LR)s in 2022 or 2023. The aircraft will be used on medium-haul routes served before the pandemic by the carrier's B787-8s, including routes to Denpasar. The carrier has a total of twenty-seven A321-200NX(LR)s on order from Airbus, as well as thirty-six A321-200NX(XLR)s and forty-five A320-200Ns. Its current fleet comprises fifty A320-200s, eight A321-200s, and eleven B787-8s.

Evans said the group remained committed to adding some A321-200NX(LR)s to its Japanese unit, although the timing was still unclear at this point.