Japan Airlines returns to Australia with Tokyo-Sydney flights

Japan Airlines brings back its Sydney flights after remaining paused for almost six months, but there's a catch...

By Chris Chamberlin, August 21 2020
Japan Airlines returns to Australia with Tokyo-Sydney flights

Japan Airlines will resume its Tokyo-Sydney flights from September 2020, being the first time since March that Japan’s flag carrier will touch down in Australia, after its routes to both Sydney and Melbourne were paused as international travel restrictions took effect.

With two services from Tokyo each week, one flight will depart JAL’s normally bustling Tokyo Narita international hub, while the other will run from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.

This will allow passengers to not only travel from Japan to Australia, but also to connect through Tokyo from destinations across Europe and North America, with the Haneda/Narita alternation allowing those connections to take place.

But for now, Japan Airlines will only offer passenger flights inbound to Australia, and with a capacity limit of 30 passengers per flight in line with Australian government restrictions.

When the aircraft turns around and departs Sydney for Japan, it’ll be without passengers on board – but it’s expected to be loaded up with cargo, to help make the service viable.

Using a Boeing 787-8 aircraft, business class passengers can stretch out in JAL’s Sky Suites.

These pair a fully-flat bed with direct (and uninterrupted) aisle access from every seat, including for passengers positioned by the windows in this 2-2-2 layout, thanks to a small path in front of their seatmate’s entertainment screen, rather than needing to hop over them.

ET review: JAL Sky Suite business class, Sydney-Tokyo

These aircraft come without first class or premium economy, but do offer economy class: and in a more spacious 2-4-2 (eight across) seating layout than the 3-3-3 (nine across) configuration adopted by most other airlines flying the Dreamliner.

Japan Airlines’ Tokyo-Sydney flight schedule

From Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, flight JL51 will operate on Thursdays during at least September, pushing back at 7:20pm local time to reach Sydney at 6:10am on Friday mornings, after a journey of 9hr 50min.

Services from Narita Airport follow the same schedule, but instead departing on Monday evenings and arriving on Tuesday mornings, under flight number JL771.

By alternating flights between these two airports, passengers will be able to travel to Australia via Tokyo from cities across North America and Europe.

As some of those flights arrive into Narita Airport, and others into Haneda Airport, passengers will be able to line-up a connection regardless of the hub served by that connecting flight – as flying into one airport, and continuing out of the other, is not currently allowed.

Of course, Australia remains closed to international tourists: and Australian citizens and permanent residents returning home from abroad must spend two weeks in hotel quarantine at their own expense upon arrival.

Japan Airlines’ previous plans for 2020

Before COVID-19 closed borders and shuttered most international travel, Japan Airlines was flying to two Australian cities – Sydney and Melbourne – and had planned to upgrade its Sydney-Tokyo flights to the Boeing 777-300ER, equipped with first class.

Those flights would have taken wing from September 1 2020, making Japan Airlines the only carrier to offer first class on non-stop flights between Australia and Japan.

JAL’s daily Sydney-Tokyo service would have also shifted from Narita Airport to Haneda Airport in late March – the same month that Virgin Australia was due to begin flying between Brisbane and Tokyo.

Also read: Australia-Japan business travel could restart this year

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1386

Given Qantas has regular cargo only A333s to Tokyo then it makes sense for JAL to join in.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Nov 2018

Total posts 100

30 passengers maximum..... I wonder how they make money? 

Understand cargo is in hot demand currently but the rates have certainly dropped from when the pandemic started. 

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 247

I think JAL has been flying freight only to Australia (at least according to Flight Radar). So I think they are seeing the chance to sell some passenger seats. Good luck to them for trying and hope it works out. 

21 Aug 2020

Total posts 2

By charging people $12,000 one way business class from Japan to Sydney.

Thats how.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Feb 2016

Total posts 9

By charging people $12,000 one way business class from Japan to Sydney.

Makes my F Syd/Hnd &  J Hnd/Syd  award tickets great value.....  Now to sit out the wait until next year to see if they can be used.......

23 Aug 2020

Total posts 1

I Like to travel in September from Frankfurt via Tokyo to Sydney but can't see any flight I n September so I don't know what u know guys tnx I will prey to get on the plane 🍀🍀🍀🤗

25 Aug 2020

Total posts 4

Good luck to JAL. Gives fresh hope to a future where overseas holidays are a thing again.

12 Oct 2017

Total posts 6

I have a ticket (economy) on JL51 in October as an Australian citizen returning home via Tokyo is there a chance I get offloaded? Or are they only selling 30 seats? If I get offloaded is the airline going to look after me? Accommodation etc does anyone know? 


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1386

John as there is a quota per flight into sydney of 30 seats then I would think about upgrading to a Business class seat as I doubt they would 'look after you'. They will argue it is Australian government regulations. You may be eligible for a refund, but have a chat to them, but one month out they will say they don't know and things could change., which is true as pressure is building to let more Ausies back, but I wouldn't count on it.

06 Oct 2020

Total posts 1

Hello John,

Did you get to use your economy ticket on JL51 yet? I know it's only the start of Oct but I'm interested to know how your journey is as I've booked JL51 19th Oct but may change for fear of getting offloaded and how long for... Please share your journey updates and GOOD LUCK!

12 Oct 2017

Total posts 6

I am currently in London with boarding passes in hand for both JL 44 LHR - HND and connection JL 51 on the 9th of October HND - SYD. I am still unsure whether JL51 is actually operating or not on the 9th of October but at least will feel closer to home when I get to Japan. Travelling in economy but as an Emerald member which may have helped so far. Will keep you posted. 

12 Oct 2017

Total posts 6

My flight on the 9th of October operated as normal. We were maybe 35 passengers in total and most of them came from the original London flight JL44. Ours was one of the few flights out of Haneda that evening that wasn't cancelled, so feel quite lucky to actually get home, in hotel quarantine in Sydney now, Sofitel Wentworth, small room and very boring. Anyway best of luck with your trip! It is possible!

19 Oct 2020

Total posts 1

@johnblom87 glad you made it home! How was quarantine and how did you book your ticket in the first place? Their website continues to show no availability, hoping to pick up a cancellation. 

My partner (AUS citizen) and I are expecting our firstborn end of December. 

We are in London but can get BA flights to either Haneda or Narita so are looking for a flight out of Japan to get back to Sydney or Brisbane some time in early/mid November before we cannot fly...!

Any ideas welcome - thanks 



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