Virgin Australia’s planned launch of non-stop Brisbane-Tokyo flights is one step closer, with Australia’s International Air Services Commission (IASC) announcing its intention to grant Virgin daily direct flights to Haneda Airport.
This follows an earlier application from Virgin Australia which would see the airline kick-start daily non-stop service between Brisbane and Haneda from March 29 2020.
The IASC’s ‘draft determination’ – which, by nature, is not a final sign-off – also seeks to provide Qantas with one additional daily return service to Haneda, as Qantas already has daily Sydney-Haneda flights.
With the rights for two daily return flights up for grabs, Qantas had previously applied for both, and planned to use them for Sydney-Haneda and Melbourne-Haneda flights: but, with the draft determination giving Qantas one daily return service only, Qantas would need to decide which route would get priority.
"We’ll confirm whether these flights will operate from Melbourne or Sydney shortly," a Qantas spokesperson told Executive Traveller.
This confirmation is expected once the IASC delivers its final decision.
Meanwhile, a Virgin Australia told Executive Traveller that the airline plans to "bring strong competition and choice to the market."
"We can’t wait to provide guests with the best value fares and our unique Virgin experience to Japan," the spokesperson continued.
Virgin Australia + ANA partnership
As part of its draft determination, the IASC also announced its intentions to allow Virgin Australia to codeshare with Japanese airline ANA on the Brisbane-Tokyo Haneda route, subject to "certain conditions".
In applying for these Brisbane-Tokyo flights, Virgin Australia had previously shared its plans to forge a frequent flyer and broader codeshare partnership with ANA, to more effectively compete with the Qantas Group and its Oneworld partner Japan Airlines.
"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," Virgin Australia said at the time of its initial application.
Haneda Airport is a major hub for ANA, while also being a more convenient arrival and departure point for travellers visitng Tokyo, given its much closer proximity to the city compared to Narita Airport.
Executive Traveller has contacted Virgin Australia to ask where it would source the Airbus A330 aircraft required for its planned Brisbane-Tokyo flights, as these jets currently fly from Sydney and Melbourne to Hong Kong, and on some cross-country domestic routes.