Qantas, JAL pitch joint business for Australia-Japan flights

The alliance would help rebuild travel between Australia and Japan while also boosting benefits to frequent flyers.

By David Flynn, December 23 2020
Qantas, JAL pitch joint business for Australia-Japan flights

Qantas and Japan Airlines hope to kick-start travel between Australia and Japan in 2021 through a significantly closer relationship which will also open new routes and expand frequent flyer benefits between the Oneworld members.

The planned 'joint business', which requires approval from Australian regulators, would launch around July 2021, which is when Qantas expects its international network to gradually restart.

Japan is among several promising  'travel bubble' destinations for Australia – along with New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea – with the prospect of bilateral health protocols and potentially the rapid uptake of a vaccine helping to create COVID-safe corridors.

Also read: Qantas sees international travel "at a virtual standstill" until mid-2021

Qantas says "the coordination made possible through a joint business would enable Qantas and JAL to ramp up flights between Australia and Japan sooner than would otherwise be possible."

In addition, the airlines have flagged their intent "to launch a new route between Australia and Japan" without saying which cities this would connect or if it would be flown by Qantas or Japan Airlines.

“The joint business means we’ll be able to build on our existing relationship with JAL through oneworld to offer more routes, better flight connections and more benefits to frequent flyers” says Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.

More points, more seats

The deeper partnership would include an expanded codeshare relationship and "optimised schedules on flights between Australia and New Zealand and Japan, opening up more connections to more destinations beyond the major city gateways."

Members of Qantas' and Japan Airlines' respective frequent flyer programs would enjoy a higher earning rate of Qantas points or JAL miles, along with the ability to upgrade using points or miles.

Qantas also expects it would be able to offer a greater number of business class and premium economy seats on Japan Airlines flights.

“The joint business means we’ll be able to build on our existing relationship with JAL through oneworld to offer more routes, better flight connections and more benefits to frequent flyers” says Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.

Prior to COVID-19 Qantas flew from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Tokyo, as well as from Sydney to Osaka and seasonally from Sydney to Hokkaido, while JAL's Boeing 787 Dreamliners connected Tokyo with Sydney and Melbourne.

Qantas+JAL vs Virgin+ANA

Mutual rivals Virgin Australia and ANA announced their own partnership in October 2019, with the intent that codeshare flights, reciprocal lounge access and an earn-and-burn arrangement for frequent flyer points would be in place by July 2020.

Those plans were scuppered by the coronavirus pandemic, which not only saw both Australia and Japan close their borders but also stopped the launch of new Virgin and ANA flights between Australia and Tokyo.

Qantas and Virgin have applied to have the window for launching their respective new Melbourne-Tokyo/Haneda and Brisbane-Tokyo/Haneda services – previously due for March 29, 2020 – pushed back to October 2021.

However, while Qantas can reboot its Japan routes with either Airbus A330 or Boeing 787 jets, the decision by Virgin Australia's new owner Bain Capital to scrap the Airbus A330 jets earmarked for Brisbane-Tokyo has left Virgin without any suitable aircraft in its fleet – meaning that Bain would need to either lease or buy jets to take up the route.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

08 Feb 2018

Total posts 125

VA wont be seen in Japan for several years, if ever. The slots should be given to QF, VA only took them under their previous strategy of chasing QF around. Their new strategy shouldn't do that.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 248

What exactly is the consumer benefit besides some higher points earn (which can be switched on today if either program wanted to do it).

If VA don’t fly this would given Qantas and JAL a near monopoly to coordinate on price? NH has a tiny amount of seats compared to QF, JQ and JL.

Approval should only be done on a new route being announced and no reduction in capacity.


13 Aug 2020

Total posts 6

How about those 77W aircrafts virgin currently owns? 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 307

The entire Virgin Australia 'owned' 738 and 77W fleet were encumbered (asset-stripped) the previous owners as they were traded into the banks as collateral for bank loans.   

Since the Bain takeover, the 77Ws and oldest 'owned' 738s were claimed by the banks as they are now considered redundant to requirements.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 676

There is a huge line of steaming [email protected] that QF appears to be pushing in this story, which they presumably hope to convince the International Air Services Commission to grant them 'almost' joint monopoly business status with JL. I'd bet that ANA can sniff the desperation a mile off.

- 1. QF controls the rate at which it and JL issue Frequent Flyer points to their customers. Varying this element doesn't require a Joint Business Agreement. It is an added, dangled "benefit" that gets floated in every JBA and nothing more.

- 2. I'm intrigued  at some of the logic in the QF statement. QF's B787-9's are already 'premium heavy' and the equivalent JAL B787's are comfortably laid out in terms of capacity and cabin layout (some at 8 and some at 9 abreast) in Y. This says to me that QF are possibly regretting retiring the B747-400's .. and losing seats.

- 3. If QF is to resume international routes beginning July 2021, how exactly do QF think they can extend these frames to most of their network, sans the A380-800's being activated in the network? If you are going to resume PER-LHR, you're going to need at least 2-3 B787-9 frames for that route alone ~ and even if LHR & the USA don't come back till early 2022, you're only saving 6 months anyway.  Delay the USA another 6 months after that, but you'll still need B787-9's for LAX, SFO, DFW, ORD, JFK and possibly HNL.

- 4. How does any decision of JL to serve Japan <-> New Zealand routes have any bearing on QF or a JBA? Routing SYD-AKL-HND or NRT isn't going to win any friends. TYO-CNS-AKL and vv. would be equally unattractive.

- 5. New destinations in Japan? Reminds me of "everything old is new again". In it's day, QF has served Narita (NRT), Osaka, Sapporo, Fukuoka and now Haneda. Back in the day, Sapporo and Fukuoka challenged profitability and were cut. There's not a lot left, city-wise.

- 6. Penetration? Seems like someone is getting "done over" .. and it isn't QF. Think about it. 

Japan routes for QF have supported SYD, MEL. BNE and PER-<HKG>-NRT
Jetstar (Australia) has a direct line to Japan via CNS

Jetstar (Japan) does a complete range of cities in Japan to a significant range of Asian cities.

How much integration / greed / feed / market exploitation do you need?

- 7. .... and all of this without even considering serving Korea? I wonder what that will bring?


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1398

What about 1500 COVID cases a day in Japan. Not sure how anyone could think of Japan opening up before the end of the year. Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand and dare I say China would be a long way before them in terms of safe COVID protocols.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Mar 2017

Total posts 15

I have just arrived in Australia from Osaka via Singapore Airlines. We forget Singapore and Cathay both offer multiple connections to Australia from Japan.

After watching Singapore Air  and others fly with half empty planes to keep people moving and knowing Mr Joyce refuses to help Aussie  international travellers - unless the government guarantees the cost of the flight, Qantas will be my very last choice.

I have been Platinum for almost the entire time Qantas has had the program and they have lost me for good. Loyalty works both ways.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 248

Alan Joyce has constantly used the phrase that Qantas is the National Carrier of Australia. He has made it clear it is not the International Carrier of Australia.

I am glad you managed to make it back on an airline that has decided to maintain essential travel connections, rather than giving up and complaining all the time.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Mar 2017

Total posts 15

rather than giving up and complaining all the time.

I am usually a happy camper and enjoy life - but its strange how forums encourage us to let us loose with complaints. Its a good way to get things off our chest without yelling at the kids :) 

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 248

Agreed! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you!

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 339

Don't forget that Singapore Airlines like many others including Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad, Qatar and Lufthansa have been massively subsidised by their government through loans and grants. Qantas has had minimal support from the Australian government apart from the same Jobkeeper payments as other businesses, certainly nothing to underwrite the costs of its flying, which is why Qantas has to rely on government support to subsidise these rescue flights. The airline is a business, not a charity.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Mar 2017

Total posts 15

I did check that before posting, and my understanding is that although Singapore is majority owned by Temasek (the government investment arm), they are specifically restricted from receiving a subsidy. They have to raise funds from the market and they did this with a rights issue and the sale of bonds. They also borrowed money from a bank. I couldn't find any reference to a subsidy from the government. I don't know about the other airlines, I wasn't thinking about them.

SIA's rationale is that after Covid the industry would grow again and this was a worthwhile investment to increase their market share.  Qantas received a few different types of support including a direct payment to keep various domestic flights in the air (with Virgin and Rex).

Qantas refused to fly internationally unless they were completely underwritten. I completely accept that as a business decision - and they have just lost my business.


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1398

Sakaiben, SIA is a state owned enterprise (by virtue of Temasek) and their funding is state guaranteed by virtue of that.  Qantas does fly Many  those routes as freight only and I’m sure they did their sums and as an end of the line airline couldn’t get them to add up. It is much more than half empty as you suggest, it is probably closer to 10-15% (35 seats on a 300 seat plane). The QF airplane costs can be covered by freight but not the additional costs associated with so few passengers.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1021

Qantas *is* flying internationally at the moment. They just aren't transporting passengers because doing so without government assistance while the government has closed the borders isn't possible if they still want to exist as an airline after the pandemic.

Qantas is operating on a number of their international routes, under the normal flight numbers, with the 787s and A330s that aren't stored as cargo only flights. Including once weekly on QF21/22 (SYD-NRT) and QF61/66 (BNE-NRT).

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