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No plans to return to Sapporo this year, says Qantas

written by Jake Nelson | June 24, 2024

Seth Jaworski shot this Qantas A330-200, VH-EBO.

Qantas is unlikely to return to Sapporo for this year’s ski season due to supply issues at New Chitose Airport.

The Flying Kangaroo, which last operated a seasonal service from Sydney to Sapporo in Hokkaido, Japan, between December 2019 and March 2020, said it had been assessing plans to restart the route this year, but did not proceed due to labour and other supply shortages at the destination.

No schedule had been published or tickets put on sale for the mooted direct flights, which Qantas previously operated three times per week with A330-200 aircraft.

“Sapporo continues to be an important market and we have a lot of connections with our partner airlines to get our customers there for the next ski season,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“We’ll continue to review the network with a view to restarting direct flights again in the coming years.”

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Qantas currently operates daily Tokyo flights from Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, with Jetstar Japan connections to Sapporo available from Narita and Japan Airlines connections available from Haneda. Jetstar also earlier this year resumed a 787-8 service from Sydney to Osaka.

As reported by Nikkei Asia last week, Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport is facing shortages of ground staff, with reports Singapore Airlines is also finding it difficult to start new seasonal services; in total, 14 weekly international routes are expected to be scrapped at Sapporo over this year’s summer and winter seasons.

Airports in Japan are reportedly also confronted by difficulties obtaining jet fuel, with the country’s oil refineries suffering from reduced capacity as well as a shortage of drivers and other transport workers necessary to deliver the finished product.

“We’re struggling just to keep up with increased demand from All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines,” a source at an oil distributor told Nikkei Asia.

“It’s hard for us to take sudden orders from international carriers.”

Inbound tourism to Japan is booming, with 25.06 million overseas visitors in 2023, more than six times the figure from 2022. Japan has already seen 14.64 million people enter the country as at the end of May.

Japan fully reopened its borders to Australian travellers in October 2022.

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