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Virgin flies long-haul again with new Tokyo service

written by Adam Thorn | December 14, 2022

Virgin Australia will fly long-haul for the first time since exiting administration in 2020 with the launch of a new daily service between Cairns and Tokyo.

The airline will use its upcoming fleet of 737 MAX 8s for the route that will launch on 28 June next year and bring an extra 30,000 additional inbound visitors to the Queensland city.

Virgin currently flies shorter haul international destinations such as Bali and Fiji, and partners with larger carriers such as United, Singapore and Qatar to fly further afield.

The service appears to be in keeping with Virgin owner Bain’s new strategy to avoid competing on mass with Qantas, which led to years of huge losses before the company’s collapse.


Chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka said, “Virgin Australia is a proud Queensland company, and we’re delighted to add over 2,000 seats between these iconic destinations every week which means more value and choice for Australians wanting to travel to Japan.”

It comes after Hrdlicka hinted in October the business could expand its shorter-haul international network as demand returns.

Speaking at the Flight Centre Illuminate summit in Sydney, she said, “We’re looking at a world of possibilities and extending our reach.

“We’re very focused on our 737 aircraft footprint. We’ve got 737-700s and 800s, and we’ve got MAX-8 and 10s coming into the fleet that gives us a bit more range, and so we will be adding to the network.”

The business is thought to have performed far better than initial expectations after it emerged from administration in 2020 with new owners. It’s now profitable for the first time since the damaging ‘capacity wars’ with Qantas a decade ago.

Its total workforce has also grown to more than 7,000 after attracting 2,000 additional staff in the past two years.

Virgin announced in August it would acquire another four MAX 8s to take its total domestic fleet to 92 Boeing 737 aircraft. It marked a significant increase from its original intention of having just 58 aircraft when it emerged from administration.

Previously, the business intended to purchase 25 MAX 10s and an additional 23 smaller MAX 8s, which were cut completely.

The new order announced this year means the airline will now receive eight of the smaller 8 variants, after making a previous order for four in April.

Virgin Australia plans to commence its daily Cairns-Haneda 7 hours and 45 minute flight on 28 June 2023, subject to regulatory approvals, with return tickets from Cairns to Haneda on sale now.

Flight VA77 is scheduled to depart Cairns at 1.15pm local time and arrive at Haneda at 8.00pm local time.

VA78 is scheduled to depart Haneda at 9.45pm local time  and arrive in Cairns at 6.15am local time.

The launch of flights to Japan follows Virgin cancelling its plan to fly from Brisbane to the Japanese capital due to COVID – even after insisting it would go ahead in early March 2020.

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Comment (1)

  • One would have to agree that VOZ under Bain has achieved much good commercially and has brought comfort and some security to its staff and suppliers, not forgetting a heavy boost to the coming IPO. The announced re-entry into the Japanese market is again a very good political and commercial act although I think the use of CNS says more about the limited operational capabilities of the Max 8 than not using the more logical and profitable base, BNE. Bain has been emphatic about not straying from the path of the 737 fleet but has there been an approval yet for the ops of the Max by Oz based carriers? In addition, Bain must realize that there is a major difference between Oz domestic and international travel customer expectations. A domestic configured 737 with it’s normal cabin service put up against the competitions service and equipment to me, is not in the race, time will tell, I am happy to be corrected though. Now we are on the VOZ road to international recovery what about SGN, ICN and TPE, has to be better than DPS.

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