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Victorian government backs Qantas for Tokyo Haneda slots

written by australianaviation.com.au | October 8, 2019
A file image of a Qantas Airbus A330-300 on approach to Melbourne Airport. (Rob Finlayson)
A file image of a Qantas Airbus A330-300 on approach to Melbourne Airport. (Rob Finlayson)

Victoria has backed Qantas’s bid to secure to two slots at Tokyo Haneda Airport.

Qantas is seeking the two new slots for Australia-Tokyo Haneda services to add a second daily Sydney-Tokyo Haneda rotation, as well as switch its current Melbourne-Tokyo Narita flight to the close-in Haneda airport.

Meanwhile, Virgin Australia has applied for one of the two available slots to begin nonstop Brisbane-Tokyo Haneda services.

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In a submission to Australia’s International Air Services Commission (IASC), Victoria said it was in favour of Qantas’s plans for the nonstop Melbourne-Tokyo Haneda flight.

“The Victorian Government, Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions supports the Qantas application and welcomes this allocation opportunity, which will provide direct flights between Melbourne and Haneda for the fist time,” the department’s deputy secretary David Latina said in the submission, published on the IASC website.

“Proximity of Haneda Airport to Tokyo and Qantas Airways proposal has the potential to attract premium and business travellers who prefer convenience to serve their travel needs and contribute to their professional success.”

Qantas has told the IASC granting the two available slot to the airline would “deliver the greatest benefit to the public” and was the “only no risk option” to launch and utilise scarce and strategically valuable slots to/from Haneda Airport.

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“For Qantas, which has proven its specific and ongoing commitment to the Japan route during both periods of growth and declining demand, there is no risk that additional services to/from Haneda Airport will be launched and maintained,” Qantas’s October 2 submission said.

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.

Virgin Australia is planning to fly Airbus A330-200s between Brisbane and Tokyo Haneda. (Rob Finlayson)
Virgin Australia is planning to fly Airbus A330-200s between Brisbane and Tokyo Haneda. (Rob Finlayson)

While the Victorian government has offered its support for the Qantas application, Brisbane Airport, Tourism Australia and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have lined up behind Virgin Australia’s application for one slot.

The ACCC said sharing available allocations between the two carriers was likely to promote greater competition.

Further, the competition watchdog said it anticipated that Virgin Australia’s entry would stimulate competition for flights between Australia and Japan and was likely to elicit a competitive response from other airlines.

“The ACCC considers that allocating one frequency between Australia and Haneda to Virgin Australia and one to Qantas would promote competition to a much greater extent than allocating both frequencies to Qantas,” ACCC general manager for adjudication David Jones said in an October 2 submission published on the IASC website.

Similarly, 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.

“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.

“One behalf of Tourism Australia and the Australian tourism industry we recommend the IASC approves Virgin Australia’s application for access to Haneda.”

Virgin Australia has told the IASC it planned to start Brisbane-Tokyo Haneda services with Airbus A330-200s in partnership with Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA).

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.

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.

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.

All Nippon Airways Boeing 787-9 featuring Star Wars livery touches down in Sydney in December 2015. (Rob Finlayson)
All Nippon Airways Boeing 787-9 featuring Star Wars livery touches down in Sydney in December 2015. (Rob Finlayson)

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.

The International terminal at Tokyo Haneda Airport. (Rob Finlayson)
The International terminal at Tokyo Haneda Airport. (Rob Finlayson)

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15 Comments

  • Mark

    says:

    While I nearly always fly on QF, if they handed both slots to QF and not one to VA, it would not look good for competition and metaphorically slap the ACCC in the face.

  • Mark2

    says:

    @Mark, Qantas has flight to HND Now.
    Does Sydney need 4 daily flights between SYD and HND?
    VA at BNE and QF at MEL means that a higher percentage of the population will be able to have direct or 1 stop daily access to HND from Australia (Especially if no Japanese carrier use their new slot for Queensland).
    Additionally, ANA has stated that are looking into adding MEL from HND (with their new slot in 2020) and JAL will add SYD anyway (with their new slot at HND instead of NRT).
    Therefore both QF/JAL JV & VA/ANA JV will offer:
    > Triple Daily on SYD-HND (QF/ANA/JAL);
    > Double Daily on MEL-HND (QF/ANA);
    > Daily on BNE-HND (VA).

  • Chris

    says:

    The Victorian government has endorsed the idea of MEL-HND flights. This has nothing to do with an endorsement for QF to get both slots. There’s a difference.

  • Johno

    says:

    You’re right. But How is it going VA Going to Add Competition by serving a route which isn’t served. In Addition They also want to team up with ANA Giving them all Capitals on the eastern seaboard to Haneda and Perth to Narita. So how is it going to increase competition? The only way it would be fair and to increase competition is to bar VA from working with ANA.

  • Craigy

    says:

    The problem with allocating Virgin one of the slots is that it provides it with a competitive advantage entering into the Japan market over Qantas. The ACCC’s claim that allocating a slot to Virgin would stimulate competition I think is false as it is more likely to result in a transfer of passengers from Qantas to Virgin because Haneda is closer to the city versus the distance from Narita. Ultimately, proof of whether demand has been stimulated will be in the load factors and profitability for each airline on the Brisbane – Tokyo route.

  • James B

    says:

    Its Japan’s choice, why would you want to risk VA for slots?? VA are in large debt, they have uncertain fleet choices, terrible track record for maintaining new routes e.g. Bali
    Tigerair is a mess, and the VA group is FAR from “synergised”.
    I wouldnt want to risk the 2020 Olympics with VA slots either.

  • Lechuga

    says:

    It makes sense if Virgin get their slot from Brisbane that Melbourne gets the other, it would be awful if Qantas go from Sydney again, too Sydney centric.

  • Alpha141

    says:

    Hi all,

    I just offer my perspectives to get to the point quick.

    The point of this competition is access to a very idealic, rarely offered and convenient location in Japan. Where ANA has major domestic links vs the present option for VA. Being close to inner Tokyo with 38 vs 5 domestic ANA links (just offering the volumes i remember off the top of my head right now) is the area this competition variable should be focused. Thus, why splitting the carriers is the key. And, at decent times during possible business hours. To offer the more lucrative traveler incentive to travel on the carrier. Plus be able to align our domestic feeding times into it as the time slot in Japan will dictate how things are fed into it. A bit like Air NZ does from many AUS links into their US access. Or Qatar or Eremites etc over to AUS.

    Saying that it is not competitive based on the origin in Australia the carrier would take off from and the number of flights from that origin point isn’t what this is about. That is distraction and a much less important variable. It is all about access to a very rare slot in a idealic time in essentially a closed market. So suggesting it is not about splitting the 2 slots up between carriers. So one can own all access to this very ideal closed off marker with very attractive options from there isn’t really accurate. Its about driving prices down to there via as many carriers as possible vs a monopoly. Choice is the key. Having VA strong internationally will help drive down domestic prices also for all. All will benefit from this. It is really huge opportunity and a no brainer VA gets one. We need a strong competitor to Qantas.

    Goodluck to VA and the Brisbane association. Ideal with the second runway coming on. Geographically ideal. Closer, 24×7, capacity and a link like this to Japan offers huge potential. I haven’t looked to see if ANA links Japan to Hong Kong either but i would say they do which would possibly aid the Hong Kong situation to (excluding the HK instability of course).

    Cheers

  • Phil

    says:

    I really hope that if Qantas only gets 1 slot that they prioritise MEL-HND then codeshare with JAL by having them use their slot to fly SYD-HND instead of Qantas adding another service. It would be dumb for Qantas to continue MEL-NRT when ANA will most likely do a MEL-HND flight.

  • Scott

    says:

    The quotes above saying BNE-HDA has no competition, are false and misleading. In all distribution networks whether that be webjet, flight centre will show BNE-TOKYO, therefore competition is present being a choice of VA or QF. If this was incorrect the distribution listing would be BNE-NARITA and BNE-HANEDA, including on the airlines own website. That WONT be the case and only 20% of the population would conclude this is Tokyo. It’s BNE-TOKYO and a CHOICE of 2 carriers = competition especially opposing codeshares/alliances. To say the ACCC has it WRONG is a very very long bow, they have been investigating competitive behaviours across lots of industries, I back them to get it right and make the call. Shoe on other foot, QF would want one slot, otherwise there would be howls all over the place. Strong QF/JL and VA/ANA is fantastic for the travelling public.
    1 slot for VA, and a ANA tie up is best outcome.

  • Benjamin

    says:

    I agree Scott. Also, isn’t the VIC government just endorsing the MEL-HND route, not necessarily QF’s submission for both slots?

  • Rob

    says:

    “For Qantas, which has proven its specific and ongoing commitment to the Japan route during both periods of growth and declining demand”

    When things turned bad a few years back Qantas dropped BNE/MEL/PER- NRT very quickly!

    • Phil

      says:

      But Qantas bought back Melbourne and Brisbane to Narita. Melbourne to Narita was still served by Jetstar during the time Qantas wasn’t on the route and also did Gold Coast to Narita. Qantas pretty much just downgraded the services due to the financial crises. Many different carriers had to make cuts and merge with competitors to make ends meet. At least after a while Qantas bought back BNE/MEL-NRT as with Virgin they haven’t really had a good track record of maintaining profitable routes overseas except Los Angeles.

  • Red Cee

    says:

    Virgin have a very good service in the South Pacific, far superior to Qantas. By adding a service to HND, they are just adding to it.

  • kurt

    says:

    The Australia-Japan market has Grown considerably over the past few years and is set to grow some more. I am sure as demand grows, more slots to Haneda and other Japanese ports will become available, and vice versa here down under to all the major cities.Who knows, that may even include direct flights to Adelaide in the not so far off future?

    I am no expert and or am advocating for a particular airport or airline.

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