Qantas delays restart of flights to Tokyo

Uncertainty over when tourists can return to Japan continues to have a knock-on effect.

By Chris Ashton, April 21 2022
Qantas delays restart of flights to Tokyo

Travellers keen to jump aboard on the Red Roo to Japan will need to wait a little bit longer, with Qantas quietly pushing back its much-hyped return to Tokyo by more than four months.

Originally set to resume on April 27, flights from Sydney to Tokyo Haneda – the airline’s new hub in the city – will now jet off from September 12. Melbourne and Brisbane have been delayed too, with their April restart dates updated to October 30 and 31 respectively.

The latest timetable now shows:

  • Sydney-Tokyo Haneda (QF25) will depart daily at 8.55pm, arriving at 6:00am the next day
  • Melbourne-Tokyo Haneda (QF79) will fly Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, with a 10.30am departure, reaching Tokyo at 8pm
  • Brisbane-Tokyo Haneda (QF61) is set to take off every Monday, Thursday and Saturday, with an 11.40am departure, landing in Tokyo at 8pm

All three routes will rely on Qantas’ Airbus A330s, which feature 28 lie-flat Business Suites and 269 economy class seats, although there’s no premium economy on these regional workhorses.

The overnight leg between Australia and Tokyo affords plenty of time to enjoy these business class beds.
The overnight leg between Australia and Tokyo affords plenty of time to enjoy these business class beds.

Although sure to disappoint many, the schedule reshuffle is not entirely unexpected.

Despite recent increases to international arrival caps and the easing of travel bans for 106 countries, there is still no clear timeline on when tourists will be allowed to reenter – currently only business travellers and students are permitted.

In addition to the boosted caps and travel bans, Australia and New Zealand have also seen the suspension of visa-free entry, with arrivals now required to obtain a visa before entering.

Still, the increased arrival caps offer a small glimmer of hope for tourists, as it shows the nation is actively looking at its entry policies. 

When the Japanese border does reopen, its legendary hot springs, delicious foodie culture, and powder-white ski slopes are sure to have travellers lining up at the gate. 

Mt Fuji is one of countless local attractions tourists are eagerly waiting to rediscover.
Mt Fuji is one of countless local attractions tourists are eagerly waiting to rediscover.

Back in 2015, when the airline rerouted its Sydney-Tokyo flights to Haneda, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce described the move as "great news for customers travelling from Australia to Tokyo and popular destinations across Japan" while noting that Haneda would prove "particularly popular with business travellers."

"Haneda is located close to downtown Tokyo and provides a great option for customers wanting to get to the city quickly or those wanting to connect seamlessly with services from our partner, JAL."

With no dedicated Qantas lounge in Haneda, business class passengers, Gold and Platinum frequent flyers and Qantas Club members can instead look forward to visiting Japan Airlines' first class and Sakura business class lounges at Haneda. Cathay Pacific’s Haneda business class lounge will certainly be worth calling into as well, when it reopens.

Additionally, top-tier travellers also gain access to Haneda's priority lane for security screening.

And if you need to be anywhere near the heart of Tokyo, Haneda is just 15km from the city, compared to some 65km for Narita.

As it happens, Haneda was Tokyo's main international airport until Narita was opened in 1978, at which time Haneda was relegated to primarily domestic routes.

However, an expansion of Haneda’s footprint into Tokyo Bay to reduce noise impact on the nearby city and increase capacity, coupled with the development of a new dedicated international terminal, saw the airport regain its international role, which was further fuelled ahead of the planned Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

For those seeking a Japanese fix right now (and who meet entry requirements) Oneworld member Japan Airlines and Virgin Australia partner ANA currently fly between Sydney and Tokyo.

Additional reporting by David Flynn

09 Mar 2021

Total posts 1

This is great news. Narita is way too far away! 

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1036

It isn't really. It depends on where in Tokyo you are going and which type of transport you use to get to/from the airports.

It is possible to get to the NW parts of the Tokyo 23 special wards faster from Narita then from Haneda.

Well obviously it depends on exactly where in Tokyo you are heading, that would be like saying London Heathrow is closer to much of London than London City. It's 100% true but if you're going to be in the heart of London, that inner London area, LCY generally beats LHR. I think that the majority of business travellers would be headed for the 'central' core of Tokyo compared to the north-west, which is closer to NRT.

22 Apr 2022

Total posts 1

Haneda Airport is about 20km south of Tokyo City while Narita Airport is about 70km east of Tokyo city. How is Narita Airport "closer" to Tokyo's NW?

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1036

There are a number of transport options from both airports into Tokyo. Depending on which option you select and where in Tokyo's 23 special wards you are going to, there are areas of Tokyo where it is faster to travel to from Narita then Haneda.

For example, you can get the Keisei SkyLiner express train from Narita and get to areas in the NW of the city (eg Ueno, Akihabara, Arakawa) in around 40 mins. It takes an hour to get to the same places from Haneda.

Travel to areas in the NE (such as Ikebukuro and Shinjuku) takes an hour from *either* airport.

Narita has a direct train to Tokyo Station (JR Narita Express), Haneda doesn't.

Travel to areas in the South/South East (Shinagawa, Shibuya, Yokohama) are faster from Haneda.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1036

Just before the travel shutdown, there were 71 flights/week between Australia and Japan across 4 airlines, with a net increase of 14 flights and a 5th airline due to start.

Qantas had wanted both HND day slots in order to shift MEL to HND and start a 2nd SYD-HND flight.

Right now, there are 10 flights/week, all cargo. (I wish Japan Post would start shipping to Australia again.)

How long did it take Japan demand to recover after flights were downsided by the 2011 earthquake?

Is the CX lounge at HND T3 still open?

CX lounge at Haneda is still closed, as mentioned in the article. I really like this lounge, it has more of a vibe than the colder emptier JAL Sakura (business class) Lounge. It's also quieter as it has fewer passengers and the interior design doesn't echo as much, not that Japanese travellers are rowdy!

And yes, two HND slots were offered to AU airlines Qantas wanted both, ideally to add that second Sydney flight to allow for when the 747 was retired, but Virgin also puts its hand up and was awarded a slot for BNE-HND. I can't see them keeping that one, they should be given a "use it or lose it" deadline.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1036

I wonder how much money QF makes out of the NRT lounge from the non oneworld airlines that contract its use.

That's a good question, and more to the point, is it enough for Qantas to keep the lounge open? I do wonder if they might decide it's just not worth it and pull down the shutters and redirect airlines to a Plaza Premium or other pay-in lounge.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 323

Japan NRT great for Transit and ANA F and C lounges great   HND does have a transit hotel   - good to see QF  flying  so if we are ever able to use LH First to NRT/HND (probably no, since A380 and the 747-8 CXLD used to use to NRT/HND) at least we dont need ANA slant beds to SYD   on the 788 or 789   

UA

09 Mar 2016

Total posts 59

I don’t understand this. ANA has only staggered flat beds on both the 788s and 789s it uses between SYD and HND. The 2-2-2 config with recliners is only found on the 787s it uses domestically and maybe to some PRC, Korea, and Taiwan routes, but I’d have to check on that. I travel that route frequently (and recently) and I’ve never been on any config other than the staggered 1-2-1 lie flat, though it’s always been the original product before the color changes and various tweaks. It would be great, though, if ANA would put The Room on its 78s and not just keep it for the 77W (ugh).

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 254

Haneda much better than Narita, but this is a big drop in Qantas seats to Japan.

Before Covid 3 flights a day to Tokyo (including a much bigger 747 with Premium Economy).  Plus other cities like Osaka (I think this is not coming back?)

However if JAL or ANA add more seats then no loss as they have a much better product.

I think it's going to take some time before Australia-Japan demand returns to pre-COVID levels, even if a quarantine-free travel bubble opens up after the Olympics in second half of the year, I just can't see everybody jumping onto flights the way they used to. Businesses have cut their travel budgets, a lot of people having lost work don't have the money for overseas holidays like they did pre-COVID. Qantas can probably keep this 'Haneda split' between Melbourne and Brisbane going until at least 2022 and by then will have petitioned to have Virgin's HND slot granted to them if they need BNE-HND to go full-time.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Feb 2021

Total posts 12

Regarding the comments on ANA slant beds on 788 and 789s, I have flown on both aircraft many times  and on 789s , it is a fully flat private style  set and generous space and 788s are usually used with flat beds  to Mexico City and regional 788s (like to DLC) are the slant /regional seats on 3 hour flights. Maybe that person was thinking of  old JL 777s but even their 789s and 773s are flat now and comfortable. 

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

09 Jun 2016

Total posts 14

Now we just need Japan to open it's borders :) 

06 Feb 2021

Total posts 46

I wonder if this is not another premature announcement for international flights returning by Qantas ?  At present Japan is clearly a closed border situation except for returning residents and those with residential permits.  Nothing I have read anywhere indicates that's likely to change in the near future, and mid year is probably a more realistic timeframe. 

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1036

Japan was getting ready to reopen to Australia and Singapore before Omicron arrived. The new variant changed things. Japan just got hit with the Omicron wave in the past 10 days or so with a number of prefectures going back into the limited style of lockdown Japanese law permits.

Japan had reopened to Business travel in early November with limited quarantine requirements pending test results, then closed it all again at the end of November.

It is currently planned to start opening again at the end of Feb.

04 Sep 2019

Total posts 28

also you can transit via Haneda to Europe on JAL.

While I think this is sadly a bit more of Qantas setting 'ambit dates' or even throwing darts at the calendar, at least it's good to know that HND will be the new QF hub at Tokyo. Pretty much better is every respect than NRT, depending on where your hotel is of course. And surely Virgin can't hold onto its HND slot when it doesn't have the necessary aircraft, once Japan reopens it would be more than fair for the authorities to say "Use it or lose it" and hand it over to Qantas so that MEL-HND and BNE-HND would both be able to move up to daily services when demand returns.

P1
P1

24 Apr 2017

Total posts 78

That's the second thing Qantas has done right in a few weeks (after buying Airbus instead of Boeing)

At this rate they'll be moving their HQ and International flights to Badgery's creek as soon as it opens, and I might even start considering them to fly with again!.

Just think how much they will get for their old land/HQ at Mascot, and they'll end up with nice new modern efficient offices at Nancy Bird.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Aug 2016

Total posts 5

Haneda is a good option for some people and not for others. Have QF decided the type of aircraft they will use?

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2559

Yes, it does of course depend on where in Tokyo you're headed. Qantas has rostered an A330 on all three Haneda routes, so I've updated the article with that. Gosh, makes me reflect that back in pre-Covid days when the Boeing 747 was doing Sydney-Haneda but the jumbo's days were numbered, Qantas faced the quandary of matching the 747's capacity on this route and one option floated was an A380. How much has changed... 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 348

Hopefully those times return in the not too distant future David.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1036

As mentioned when the idea was floated, the issue with an A380 is that HND will only allow 1 there at a time and only during the night slot period. If QF were to start flying an A380 to HND, they would have to change their flight times as they wouldn't have been allowed to keep it parked there all day like they've done with the 747.

Yes, the timing was an issue, Alan Joyce directly references it in this old ET/AusBT article I found through a search: https://www.executivetraveller.com/news/qantas-eyes-airbus-a380-upgrade-for-sydney-tokyo

“We’d like to go to an A380 (on Sydney-Tokyo), and use the aircraft there,” Joyce remarked on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Annual General Meeting in Seoul, but the aircraft serving the Sydney-Tokyo route “stays in Tokyo the whole day and then leaves at night, which means no other A380s can be on the ground when it’s there” under the airport’s current policy. "We need that (policy) changed, and we’re working to figure out how we’d do that."

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Aug 2016

Total posts 5

Thanks for the update David. Pleased to hear the 747 has retired as it wasn't the most comfortable overnight flight.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Mar 2019

Total posts 2

Hi…great website; I’ve used it often!! We just used our QFF to book Business Class Mel-Lon return on Emirates out (paying with points, as no rewards available), back on a JAL Classic Reward.  The return flight is Nov 9 and transit (we have 4 hrs) is from Haneda to Narita. I’m hoping that surely by then, transit will be allowed through Japan, but if it wasn’t at that time, what happens? Does Qantas find us another flight? Or is it up to us? Thanks, Sam

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jul 2014

Total posts 22

Haneda is privately owned and dramatically more efficient and interesting than Narita. I have been to Tokyo well over 200 times over 20 years and that extra hour it takes to get to Narita really gets long. Moving in and around Haneda is faster and easier as well. I wish there would be a Saturday night or Sunday day flight so I can be ready for work on a Monday. Losing all day Saturday and Sunday is annoying.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Jan 2017

Total posts 4

I notice the last comment about priority lane - is this new? As a platinum frequently travelling to Haneda, this is new as this was never an option before 

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1036

HND International security has always had a priority lane, but it has been limited to airlines and flight class on said airlines as determined by the terminal operators. They have normally had a list of permitted airlines at the start of the security queue.

To date, QF hasn't been a permitted airline and QF status when flying on JL hasn't gotten you access (even though the same oneworld status via JL would).

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 412

I could be wrong here but were they prior to the late seventies prior to narita using haneda in the past.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1036

Yes, prior to Narita opening in May 1978, everyone used Haneda when flying to Tokyo. They build NRT because of capacity at HND and the increasing noise issues from jets. Once NRT opened, all international flights (with some exceptions for Taiwan) were moved from HND.

They started international flights again in the late 90s with "scheduled charters" allowed to international ports within the same distance as the longest domestic flight (basically Korea and parts of China). Expansions of the airport onto reclaimed land in the bay and a new terminal allowed long haul flights to resume in 2010 with night time arrivals/departures (when NRT is closed and there isn't many domestic flights). Other extensions and airspace changes throughout the 2010s allowed more long haul flights, this time with day time slots.

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 228

I've only had one trip to Haneda compared to two to Nartita, all of those on Qantas flights, and really liked Haneda. Much less sprawling than Narita, just felt more relaxing and easier to get around. Loved the Cathay lounge there, and so easy to get from Haneda to downtown Tokyo and vice versa.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Sep 2012

Total posts 219

I seemed to have previously recalled from an article on this website that Japanese authorities previously wanted carriers to attend to both airports (Haneda and Narita) so that Haneda doesn't monopolise international traffic from Narita. Hence for a time QF operated Sydney to Haneda, whilst having Melbourne and Brisbane service Narita. Has this changed?

Also, it will be interesting as to how they deal with the extra slot situation now that VA is unlikely to commence Brisbane to Tokyo flights. QF could be granted the additional slot, but seeing as both JAL and NH would only have one daily slot each would this breach anti-competition laws? I do know that Japanese laws favour and protect Japanese businesses. Would QF have to scrap its codeshare agreement with JAL if this goes through?

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 228

"Also, it will be interesting as to how they deal with the extra slot situation now that VA is unlikely to commence Brisbane to Tokyo flights. QF could be granted the additional slot, but seeing as both JAL and NH would only have one daily slot."

JAL and ANA also got an extra Haneda slot handed to them in the 2019 allocation, the agreement was four slots for AU-HND, two for Japanese airlines and two for Australian airlines. If I remember correctly, ANA decided to use its extra slot to launch a second daily SYD-HND flight while JAL used it to change SYD-NRT to SYD-HND.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1036

When HND reopened to long haul international flights, there was a requirement that any airlines getting new HND slots had to maintain service to NRT, which is why QF started MEL-NRT the moment they started SYD-HND.

It would seem that requirement is now dead. A number of European carriers had been pushing back on it.

Each time HND slots are assigned, the JP MLIT assigns them to given nations on a 50:50 basis. The 2019 slot allocation included 4 day slots for Australia, 2 for Japanese carriers to fly from HND to AU and 2 for Australian carriers to fly from AU to HND.

The current HND slots for Australia are 2 night slots (used by QF and NH for SYD-HND) and 4 day slots (QF BNE/MEL-HND, NH SYD-HND, JL MEL-HND and one assigned to VA which they can't use with their current fleet)

Etihad - Etihad Guest

19 Mar 2018

Total posts 73

This will be more for Australia - USA traffic.

The Qantas A380s aren't competitive nor decent compared to what the competition will offer.  Japan Airlnes is a great airlne, and Tokyo a great hub. One amazing thing is the visa, which they give it to you for transit or arriving, which I believe, gives you a 1 or 2 yr validity to visit Japan again.

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 228

Not sure I understand your comment, what does the Qantas A380 have to do with Tokyo apart from the fact that QF once said in pre-COVID days the A380 might even be considered to replace the 747 on Sydney-Tokyo flights? That's sure not going to happen now, the ten A380s coming back will only be for the USA and London.

"This will be more for Australia - USA traffic." Also don't understand this, nobody will be flying Qantas to Tokyo to connect to JAL for the USA.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 389

Great news! I much prefer Haneda over Narita, not only it's closer to the heart of the city but the airport itself is easier to navigate. Love the JAL First lounge there, also the CX lounge for the Noodle Bar if that's your thing. Just as well Qantas didn't embark on that promised upgrade to the Narita lounge. Now they can focus their limited capex budget on Auckland, in fact it would be good to see that work happening already as the lounges are closed.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Mar 2019

Total posts 2

Hi…great website; I’ve used it often!! We just used our QFF to book Business Class Mel-Lon return on Emirates out (paying with points, as no rewards available), back on a JAL Classic Reward.  The return flight is Nov 9 and transit (we have 4 hrs) is from Haneda to Narita. I’m hoping that surely by then, transit will be allowed through Japan, but if it wasn’t, what happens? Does Qantas find us another flight? Is it up to us? Thanks, Sam

15 Feb 2013

Total posts 164

If there’s one slot per day split between the Mel/Bne flights, how are they both going on Saturday? Or is that a typo and one of them was meant to say Sunday?

22 Oct 2019

Total posts 2

Great article, thanks David!

Really keen to get back to Tokyo and, with plenty of Japanese connections (my Wife is Japanese & I’ve lived and worked in Tokyo) we’ve been having Sayonara parties for friends as they rotate back to Japan at the end of the Japanese FY. Sad to see them go.

If it’s helpful to those on this forum, whilst Japan has waived the 3-7 day quarantine requirements for triple vaccinated business travellers, the visa waiver program for those with Aussie, NZ and Brit passports has been suspended. Cue a significant amount of paperwork, pre-applications and letters from respective Japanese representative offices with pledges and guarantees. For JSE listed companies, it shouldn’t be too much of a lift but for foreign companies & startups, it’ll be a fair amount of work (itinerary, mode of transport, local Japanese contacts, etc) plus a minimum of a week turnaround from the local Japanese embassy. 

Useful links below:

https://www.mofa.go.jp/ca/fna/page4e_001053.html

https://www.mofa.go.jp/ca/fna/page22e_000921.html

https://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/index.html

Hopefully it’ll get easier in the next month. Can’t wait to get back both for business and family.

10 Apr 2022

Total posts 2

Great...we're booked on QF25 on July 2nd...so no doubt this will be yet another change to the itinerary in the space of 8 weeks. No updates from QF yet though. Flight still showing as normal online. 
QF originally cancelled our SYD-SFO flight for June 8. Was then booked via Brisbane and LA (had to pay for the LAX-SFO leg ourselves). Whilst inconvenient we accepted it on the understanding cancellations happen from time to time. Then our connecting JAL flight home (booked through QFF site) was cancelled from HND to Sydney. Which is why we were then put on QF25 (after waiting on hold for 7 hours to get an alternative). Now it looks like QF25 is a no go. 
I think between all of the cancellations and changes happening with QF and their partners lately, frequent fliers like us are getting a bit frustrated. I'm a reasonable guy. I can handle the odd cancellation or change. But this is becoming a bit ridiculous QF...

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1036

This newest delay has everything to do with the Japanese Government. Qantas has little reason to resume passenger flights to Japan while the Japanese Government continues to ban tourists from entering.

Currently, the only people permitted to enter Japan are citizens, permanent residents, families of such with the needed Spouse/Child visa, and holders of work, student or business visas. There is also a cap of 10,000 entries per day and a complex system of isolation requirements depending on vaccination status, test results (pre departure and arrival tests) and departure country.

I don't see Qantas, or most non Japanese carriers, resuming/increasing regular flights to Japan until such time as Japan allows tourists again.

Japan Post suspended mail to Australia in 2020 and has yet to resume it, even though Australia Post has been able to send to Japan through the pandemic and Qantas Group has had up to 3 weekly cargo only flights to Japan throughout. All my packages from Japan have had to go via Hong Kong and/or Singapore via DHL.

05 Jan 2021

Total posts 13

Looks like I'm caught up with these latest cancellations too - travelling Sydney to Haneda late August .

No update from QF - its almost that they want to keep it quiet.

Usually, QF will "sms" me and I would notice it on my QFF account .

Nothing.

Lets hope those affected by these changes are looked after by Qantas in terms of being offered flights with reasonable connections.

30 Jul 2015

Total posts 135

I have booked flights to japan for mid February and honestly i think there is no way they will allow tourists in until after their July 2023 upper house election. because its very popular amongst the japanese by keeping the borders shut to tourists regardless of how stupid and pointless it is now. Its a neo-sakoku mindset. the Govt will have to open up the border with the japanese people kicking and screaming until they calm down 


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