Qantas is set to resume its service between Brisbane and Tokyo Haneda airport on Thursday using its A330s.
The three-times-weekly, nine-hour service will depart on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays and join the Flying Kangaroo’s seven-times-weekly service to Sydney.
Qantas is still not targeting a Japan return to Melbourne until March next year, but sister airline Jetstar has already resumed Cairns to Narita and Osaka flights alongside Gold Coast to Tokyo Narita.
Virgin will launch its rival service to Japan in March next year but has already opened it up to reservations.
Japan significantly relaxed its strict COVID-19 rules in October to allow tourists to visit the country without a visa.
Previously, the country capped visitors at just 50,000 a day and asked arrivals to arrange their travel through an authorised tour operator.
New arrivals can now organise their travel independently but must be either triple vaccinated or present a pre-departure COVID-19 test.
Air New Zealand currently operates three non-stop flights between Auckland and Tokyo each week.
Frequencies will increase to six times a week from 12 December before returning to a daily service from 13 February.
The news of a restart between Brisbane and Tokyo comes after Australian Aviation reported how tourists are failing to return in great numbers despite months without COVID-19 restrictions.
Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show there were 370,000 “short-term overseas arrivals” in September 2022, compared to 695,000 in September 2019.
However, across the 2021-2022 financial year, just 18 per cent of those listed their reason for coming to the country as being to holiday, compared to 56 per cent who cited visiting friends or relatives.
The data appears to corroborate the observation made by Adelaide Airport’s MD, Brenton Cox, on the Australian Aviation Podcast.
“Right now, probably most of the people coming from overseas are doing so to visit friends and relatives, or for essential business,” he said. “The big free, independent travellers haven’t quite made their way here yet.”
Cox said he believed Australia’s COVID-19 response — which saw state borders open and close and a high-profile incident involving Novak Djokovic — was deterring casual visitors.
“I just remember looking at the scenes when Djokovic was being booted out of the Australian Open. And at that moment, you went, ‘Wow, it’s a lot of eyeballs on this.’
“And there are a lot of people who — similar to the state border risk — thought, ‘Well, if I come to this country, am I going to be trapped? Or am I going to be stuck in a detention centre?’”