Virgin Australia will begin direct flights between Cairns and Tokyo in June 2023, alongside a “strengthened partnership” with Japan’s ANA, including reciprocal loyalty benefits such as lounge access and other status perks.
The daily Cairns-Tokyo service is due to commence on Wednesday June 28, 2023:
- VA77 departs Cairns at 1.15 pm to reach Tokyo at 8pm
- VA78 departs Tokyo at 9.45pm to reach Cairns at 6.15am the following morning
The route is being assigned to Virgin’s new Boeing 737 MAX, which will take on the 7h30m journey between Australia’s 'tropical capital' and Tokyo’s Haneda airport.
Virgin’s Hello Tokyo sale lists Cairns-Tokyo return fares from July 18 starting at $699 for an Economy Lite fare (with only carry-on bags), with Business just shy of $2,000; pricing from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, with connecting flights to and from Cairns, begins at $749.
And as is often the case with newly-arrived routes there are plenty of seats available to be booked using Velocity Points at low Reward rates of 27,800 points in Economy and 59,500 points in Business (with a $91 surcharge from Cairns and $68 from Tokyo).
In addition to the usual complimentary meals and drinks in business class, pointy end passengers will also be issued with a pillow, blanket and amenity kit.
Virgin forged the new route with support from the Queensland Government and Cairns Airport through the Queensland Government’s $200m Attracting Aviation Investment Fund.
“Virgin Australia is a proud Queensland company and we’re delighted to add over 2,000 seats between these iconic destinations every week which means more value and choice for Australians wanting to travel to Japan,” says Virgin Australia Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka.
“Importantly, it also means welcoming more Japanese tourists into the Sunshine State to enjoy our unrivalled natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef and Whitsunday Islands.”
The Boeing 737 MAX will also offer free inflight WiFi to Velocity Platinum, Beyond Lounge members and business class passengers; if you’re not in that cohort, fees will begin at $9.95 for a 30-minute pass and $24.95 to stay online for the entire flight.
Virgin vs Jetstar
As previously reported, Virgin in in a ‘use it or lose it’ situation regarding a slot assigned at Tokyo Haneda for the start of flights between Brisbane and Tokyo on March 29, 2020 – a route which was abandoned in the face of the Covid pandemic, with Virgin Australia collapsing into administration four weeks later.
A decision by new owners Bain Capital to scrap Virgin’s long-range fleet of Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 jets left the airline without any aircraft suited to restarting Brisbane-Tokyo flights.
Virgin’s sole competitor on the route is Jetstar, with five flights a week on its Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
The Jetstar Dreamliner is topped by ‘business class’ seats which are more akin to premium economy; Virgin Australia has yet to reveal the seating choices for its 737 MAX but has been trialling new business class and economy seats on selected domestic Boeing 737-800 jets, and it’s not expected that the 737 MAX’s business class cabin will see anything close to a flat bed.
That will deliver an edge to Jetstar, not only for premium passengers but also given that the Dreamliner is designed for a better and jetlag-reducing flying experience.
In Virgin’s favour will be the convenience of Haneda, considered a ‘downtown’ airport that’s much closer to Tokyo than the more distant Narita used by Jetstar.
The Virgin brand is also expected to have strong appeal to Japanese travellers eager to visit Australia, either making Cairns their sole destination for a tropical getaway or adding a trip to Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne via a connecting Virgin Australia flight to make the most of their holiday.