Snapshot: JetStar – a quality, low-cost carrier serving Australia & Asia

JetStar was founded in 2003 as a low-cost carrier by Qantas to serve the Australiian market and has since expanded into Singapore, Vietnam and Japan to offer low-cost travel in the fast growing Asian market. With failing low-cost carriers in Europe and a series of accidents in Asia, travelers are more cautious about flying an unfamiliar low-cost carrier. I consider JetStar a safe & solid choice. Find out more about the JetStar fleet, destinations, safety ratings, the JetStar experience and airline rewards you can earn in my Snapshot Review JetStar!

Facts & Figures: JetStar started as an Australian, domestic low-cost carrier (LCC) in 2003. Since then Qantas has made a number of investments and created the JetStar Group, consisting of airlines in Australia, Singapore, Vietnam and Japan, all operating under the JetStar brand with the same products and services offered across the airlines.
JetStar Group operates a fleet of 117 Airbus A320/321 narrow-body jets and 11 Boeing B787 long-haul planes from Australia, serving a total of 98 destinations. The A320/321 are configured with economy cabins, while the B787 offer a Premium Economy cabin (confusingly called Business Class) for long-haul flights.

JetStar Australia, Singapore and Vietnam have a perfect safety rating of 7/7, while JetStar Japan has not completed their (voluntary) IOSA audit, resulting in a 4/7 rating. I’d consider them a safe choice and wouldn’t hesitate to fly them (see details here).
SkyTrax rates JetStar Australia and Singapore as 3-star airline, similar to other LCC, while JetStar Vietnam and Japan have not been rated.

The Experience: Similar to other LCC, JetStar relies on direct online bookings and offers an easy to use website for bookings. It markets their flights “unbundled”, which means you can book just the flight and add reserved seats, luggage, meals and drinks as you like it. You can purchase these amenities in bundles (see below) or add them individually to the base fare.

Unfortunately, while the overview looks clear enough, the devil is in the detail and there is no easy way to determine whether a bundled fare or a base fare with add-ons is the better deal, requiring a lot of back-and-forth to make sure you get what you want at the best price!
JetStar has one of the tightest carry-on policy, allowing one regular carry-on and a small, personal item with a combined weight of only 7kg – that’s almost impossible to achieve for anybody traveling with a laptop, so make sure to purchase extra luggage.

JetStar offers online or mobile app check-in for select flights only and it wasn’t working reliably for me. I was promised online check-in on 3 out of 4 flights, but it only worked once!
The airport experience varied greatly. Check-in lines were short and well organized on all my flights from Singapore, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City, a noticeable difference from other LCC in Asia. The boarding process was organized and pre-boarding for priority passengers was allowed in Singapore and Vietnam, but a chaotic free-for-all in Bangkok. 

JetStar’s narrow-body Airbus A320/321 are configured in a standard 3-3 layout of leather seats with a tight seat pitch of 29 inches. Older planes have slightly more comfortable, regular economy seats.

Newer planes have slimline seats with limited padding and a hard seat-back and the brochure pocket moved up. They are only comfortable for me on shorter flights of less than 4h. There were no entertainment screens, power outlets or WiFi on any of the planes I flew, so bring your own entertainment on fully charged devices. 

The onboard service was professional and friendly on all my flights, with flight attendants welcoming everybody onboard as well as assisting passengers with their seats and luggage. One of my flights was delayed by 1 hour and the purser went above and beyond to make sure that connecting passengers had connecting flight information to ensure they make their flights. She had the pilot get the information prior to arrival and provided it to all the affected passengers – that’s a level of services many mainline carriers don’t provide, so color me impressed!

The flight attendants come through the plane to deliver pre-ordered meals or sell meals, snacks and drinks onboard. The selection was competitive, while prices were slightly higher than other Asian LCC.

Rewards: JetStar doesn’t have its own loyalty or rewards program, but offers passengers traveling on the most expensive fares to earn miles in the Qantas, Japan Airlines, Emirates or Vietnam Airlines rewards programs. No loyalty perks are offered on JetStar flights.

Bottomline: JetStar follows the standard low-cost carrier formula by offering basic fares with amenities for extra fees. JetStar has one of the tightest carry-on limits, making extra fees hard to avoid. While the website is easy to use, the fares could be more transparent and online check-in needs to work more reliably to be convenient. JstStar has a solid safety track record and high rating, making it a safe choice in a region marred by safety issues! The planes have a standard LCC hard product, but the ground service and onboard service are slightly better than other budget airlines. JetStar is a safe choice for connections from their partner airlines as well as for domestic or regional non-stop flights and I wouldn’t hesitate to fly them when they offer competitive fares.

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