Brisbane Airport and Tourism Australia have backed Virgin Australia’s application to begin nonstop flights between Brisbane and Tokyo Haneda Airport.
Virgin Australia is seeking one of the two available slots for Australian carriers at the popular downtown airport in Tokyo.
Its application to Australia’s International Air Services Commission (IASC), which manages the country’s traffic rights, outlined plans to commence nonstop Brisbane-Tokyo Haneda flights from the end of March 2020 with Airbus A330-200 equipment.
Meanwhile, Qantas has applied for both available slots to add a second daily Sydney-Tokyo Haneda rotation and switch its Melbourne-Tokyo Narita service to Haneda.
Brisbane Airport executive general manager for communications and public affairs Rachel Crowley said the two available Tokyo Haneda slots represented a “once in a lifetime” opportunity for Australia’s airlines, given further access would be unlikely for the foreseeable future.
“It is our belief that providing a slot for a Brisbane-Haneda operation will optimise Australia’s national benefit from these newly gained national resources,” Crowley said in Brisbane Airport’s submission published on the IASC website on Wednesday.
“Brisbane Airport is supportive of Virgin Australia’s application for a Brisbane-Haneda slot, recognising that a new service from HND-BNE would generate greater economic benefits to Australia, than further capacity into Sydney.”
Tokyo Haneda Airport, which is located much closer to Tokyo city than Tokyo Narita, had previously been predominantly used by Japanese carriers as a domestic airport.
However, there have been efforts to expand the number of international services at Haneda amid a Japanese government push to attract more tourists to the country.
In September, the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) allocated a total of four new slot pairs for Australia-Tokyo Haneda routes, comprising two new slot pairs for Japanese carriers – one for All Nippon Airways (ANA) and one for Japan Airlines – and two new slot pairs for Australian carriers.
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The allocation was among a package of 50 slot pairs for international services at Tokyo Haneda, with 25 for Japanese airlines and 25 for international carriers.
Also, the slots would be for daytime services – notionally between 0600 and 2255 – as air traffic managers opened up more airspace in the Tokyo area to support the additional flights.
Virgin Australia to enter Japan in partnership with All Nippon Airways
Virgin Australia said it planned to start flights to Tokyo Haneda in partnership with Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA) that included codesharing on each other’s nonstop Australia-Japan services, as well as on flights within the two carrier’s domestic networks.
This would provide a “critical source of passenger feed onto the new flights”, Virgin Australia said in its submission.
“Virgin Australia would not be prepared to commence services to Japan if our only option to serve Tokyo was through operations to Narita, as we would not have the ability to leverage our partnership with ANA,” Virgin Australia said.
There would also be reciprocal loyalty benefits for members of Virgin Australia’s Velocity and ANA’s Mileage Club frequent flyer programs, including access to priority checkin, baggage and boarding along with lounge access for eligible members.
While Virgin Australia currently does not fly to Japan with its own aircraft, it sells codeshares flights between Australia and five destinations in Japan operated by its alliance partner Singapore Airlines (SIA).
Tourism Australia managing director Philippa Harrison said granting Virgin Australia one of the two available slots would mean the introduction of new airline with nonstop flights between Australia and Japan. This would bring a new source of competition in the market and deliver significant benefits for travellers.
“Virgin Australia’s proposal has the potential to increase disposals of Japanese visitors within Australia between the eastern and western seaboards, through its partnership with ANA which currently flies to Sydney and Perth,” Harrison said in Tourism Australia’s submission published on the IASC website on Wednesday.
“Our country and our tourism industry stand to benefit in many ways from the approval of the proposal, which should increase capacity, add new flight and route options, enhance codeshare connectivity and lower airfares.
“One behalf of Tourism Australia and the Australian tourism industry we recommend the IASC approves Virgin Australia’s application for access to Haneda.”
Currently, there were nine nonstop routes between Australia and Japan operated by four carriers – Sydney-Tokyo Haneda (ANA and Qantas), Sydney-Tokyo Narita (Japan Airlines), Sydney-Osaka Kansai (Qantas), Melbourne-Tokyo Narita (Japan Airlines and Qantas), Brisbane-Tokyo Narita (Qantas), Gold Coast-Tokyo Narita (Jetstar), Cairns-Osaka Kansai (Jetstar), Cairns-Tokyo Narita (Jetstar) and the recently commenced Perth-Tokyo Narita service from ANA.
And there is new capacity coming later in 2019, with Qantas scheduled to operate a seasonal Sydney-Sapporo nonstop flight with Airbus A330 equipment between December 2019 and March 2020.
The IASC said on September 3 it was aiming to allocate the two Tokyo Haneda slots by October 31 2019, in order to enable Australian carriers to begin flights from March 29 2020, the start of the 2020 northern summer scheduling period. It described the deadline as a “tight timeframe”.
ANA and Japan Airlines were yet to announce how they planned to use the additional Tokyo Haneda slot for Australian routes.
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