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Qantas plans to add two new flights to Tokyo's Haneda Airport beginning March 2020, following a decision to open up more routes from the near-city airport.
The airline says it will launch a daytime flight between Melbourne and Tokyo/Haneda using an Airbus A330, which would "replace Qantas’ Melbourne-Narita service," the airline notes in its submission to Australia's International Air Services Commission in support of the bid.
Qantas also plans to add a second daily flight between Sydney and Haneda using either an Airbus A330 or Boeing 787 Dreamliner to complement the existing Boeing 747 service. This would also be a daytime service, compared to the overnight Boeing 747.
More flights, more connections
The Melbourne-Haneda service would tie into the domestic network of Oneworld partner Japan Airlines with "new or improved same-day connectivity to 18 cities".
"Qantas’ existing Melbourne service operates into Narita, where there is no connectivity to domestic Japan on partner airlines," Qantas notes. Additionally, "Victoria is the second largest market to/from Japan for business purpose travel, reflecting close corporate ties with Japan"
Meanwhile, the second daily Sydney-Haneda flight "will provide even more options for the strong demand between the two cities, particularly for the large proportion of business travellers, by offering Haneda service at different times of the day," Qantas suggests.
"The new slots provide for greater choice for consumers with a daytime travel option to Haneda in addition to Qantas’ current overnight service."
If approved, the new Sydney and Melbourne flights would begin on 29 March 2020. Japan Airlines would continue its daily flights between Melbourne and Tokyo/Narita, which launched in September 2017.
Haneda is Tokyo's hot new airport hub
JAL and Star Alliance member All Nippon Airways (ANA) have also been allocated "one frequency per day during daytime hours between Haneda and Australia," although neither airline has yet revealed which Australian cities will see those new flights.
The pair of new Haneda routes are open to application by any Australian airline, and Virgin Australia has also staked its claim to one of the slots.
However Qantas' submission tellingly notes that "Qantas is also the only no risk option to meet the requirement for this allocation of capacity to commence services to Haneda on 29 March 2020", in a nod to the headwinds facing Virgin Australia.
The beleagured challenger recently posted a $315 million loss for the 2018-2019 financial year and, having returned seven straight years of losses adding up to $1.9 billion, is now engaged in a sweeping program to 'rightsize' the airline including a focus on routes and fleet.
"Allocation of the two additional Haneda frequencies to Qantas would ensure there is no risk of the capacity not being fully utilised in the required timeframe and would promote effective competition by Australian carriers on one of the country’s most mature but complex travel markets," Qantas claims.
Tokyo's Boeing 747 headed for retirement
With Qantas planning to retire its Boeing 747 fleet by the end of 2020, the airline had also been examining using its Airbus A380 superjumbo as a replacement.
“We’d like to go to an A380 (on Sydney-Tokyo)" Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce told Executive Traveller earlier this year, but the airline faced a limit on the number of A380s which Haneda could accommodate.
"We need that (policy) changed, and we’re working to figure out how we’d do that," Joyce revealed – but failing that, Plan B was to replace the daily Boeing 747 with two daily flights of smaller aircraft, "so it may be a frequency solution if we can’t get an aircraft solution."