Virgin Australia wants to begin daily flights between Brisbane and Tokyo's Haneda Airport in March 2020, with the airline staking a hometown claim to one of two new openings being offered to Australian airlines.
In a proposal to Australia's International Air Services Commission, Virgin says its Brisbane-Tokyo flights would add competition and choice to a route currently flown only by Qantas.
"The greatest public benefits are likely to be realised by splitting the available capacity between Virgin Australia and the Qantas Group," the airline states, adding that "Brisbane is underserved and the introduction of flights by Virgin Australia would bring competition to the market."
In Virgin's favour is that its Airbus A330 flights would arrive and depart from Tokyo's Haneda Airport, which is located much closer to the centre of Tokyo than the more distant Narita Airport used by Qantas.
Virgin, ANA partnership
Haneda also offers plenty of domestic flights within Japan through All Nippon Airways (ANA), with which Virgin will forge an alliance to strengthen its hand when it comes to onwards connections for Brisbane travellers heading beyond Tokyo.
"Our partnership with ANA will enable us to provide passengers travelling on our flights with access to over 1,300 return flights per week from Haneda to 38 points in Japan," the airline states, adding that the partnership also "includes plans for reciprocal code share services on sectors between and within Australia and Japan, underscores our level of commitment to entering the route."
Virgin also says that "a reciprocal loyalty benefits program" between its Velocity frequent flyer program and ANA's Mileage Club "will be launched in March 2020."
"Through this partnership, Virgin Australia and ANA will be able to compete more effectively with the combined strength of oneworld members Qantas Group and Japan Airlines."
ANA has also been offered a new route between Tokyo/Haneda and Australia, and is tipped to choose Melbourne as it already flies to Sydney and Perth.
Virgin notes that its US partner Delta Air Lines "will have a strong presence at Haneda after it shifts its Tokyo hub from Narita to Haneda in 2020, which may reveal further commercial opportunities Virgin Australia in the future. This has the potential to deliver further options and benefits for travellers."
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Virgin says its daily Brisbane-Tokyo Airbus A330 flights would be in place by 29 March 2020, with "selected flights" including inflight Internet.
With all six of its Airbus A330s already spoken for, Virgin hasn't revealed where the Brisbane-Tokyo aircraft would come from: if this would see a reduction in flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Hong Kong, or pulling another A330 from the Sydney-Perth or Melbourne-Perth transcontinental schedule.
The International Air Services Commission intends to announce the outcome of its Australia-Tokyo route allocation by 31 October 2019.
Virgin's pitch comes in the wake of a sweeping review to 'rightsize' the airline – including a focus on routes – having recently posted a $315 million loss for the 2018-2019 financial year, topping seven straight years of losses adding up to $1.9 billion.
However, in its application for the Tokyo flights, Virgin said "preparations for Virgin Australia’s entry to the Japan route, in anticipation of a successful application to the Commission for an allocation of capacity to Haneda, have been underway for many months."