Jetstar to Buy 9 Airbus A320s

Qantas said Thursday it would buy nine new Airbus A320 jetliners and redeploy four other planes from its international fleet to domestic services in preparation for a market share war.

The new planes will be for Qantas Airways Ltd.'s budget arm Jetstar to use on domestic and short-haul international routes, and will be delivered during a 15-month period starting in late 2007, CEO Geoff Dixon said in a statement.

The price was not disclosed.

Four Boeing 767-300 planes from the international fleet that Qantas had been planning to sell mid-year would instead by moved to domestic operations, Dixon said.

The moves come as Singapore Airlines-backed budget carrier Tiger Airways prepares to launch itself into the Australian domestic market, and as Qantas' only Australian rival, Virgin Blue, expands its international routes. Virgin Blue has about one-third of Australia's domestic market.

"The additional capacity for both Jetstar and Qantas ... should enable the Qantas Group to maintain its 65 percent share of the Australian domestic market," he said.

Analysts say Tiger's entry to domestic routes in Australia will likely lead to a tough competition fight, including aggressive ticket price-cutting.

Dixon said the A320 aircraft will help Jetstar expand popular tourist routes including Cairns, the Gold Coast, Perth and the Northern Territory.

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