Virgin Australia’s Brisbane to Tokyo flights one step closer

The Australian Government plans to share new traffic rights for Tokyo Haneda flights between Qantas and Virgin Australia.

By Chris Chamberlin, October 21 2019

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.

Also read: Qantas, Virgin in battle to for Tokyo: here's why

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

aklrunway

aklrunway

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2011

Total posts 335

Watch them pull out in six months

Mightyreds

Mightyreds

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 266

Not that I believe that will happen, but of they do, Qantas could then apply for the additional slot.

Pcoder

Pcoder

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 50

Not likely to happen. It will be in ANA's interest to keep Qantas out.

DanV

DanV

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 127

Also a good example of VA branching out in "non-equity" partnerships after years of stagnation (ala HA, NH) since SQ and EY greatly stepped back and reduced their day to day involvement in VA for numerous reasons (e.g EY's financial problems of their own or SQ's other investments e.g Vistara is a bigger priority) for them.

Himeno

Himeno

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 931

With VA's history of long haul flights, pulling out of the route within 12-18 months is incredibly likely.

tmsmile

tmsmile

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Nov 2011

Total posts 109

Like Abu Dhabi? Johannesburg? Remember Bali with TT? Swapsies with MEL/BNE-LAX? Even Hong Kong hasn't escaped going from a few days a week to daily, back to a few days a week and now being rumoured to be canned.

A long history of long haul flights indeed...

chuboy

chuboy

06 Nov 2018

Total posts 3

AUH, JNB and LAX "swapsies" have a common denominator - the 777, which Virgin has too few of to run a meaningful long haul international operation. Too many to just run daily MEL/SYD-LAX, but not enough to run daily between LAX and the golden triangle. AUH and JNB were very much shoehorned into the capacity in the fleet.

HKG is a different situation because of the issues with getting landing slots at the airport, and of course now reduced demand due to civil unrest. All carriers are reducing capacity to Hong Kong.

Tiger to Bali didn't "not work" commercially, it was a regulatory approval issue.

BNE-HND is a great route for VA to pick up and they should do very well. Qantas enjoys very good loads flying to far-flung Narita. With the Olympics coming up, the timing for Virgin is great. It's just a shame they will miss ski season this year - although they should benefit from a nearly a full year operating on the route when it comes to the 20/21 ski season.

deanr

deanr

04 May 2015

Total posts 231

Not entirely accurate. While Sydney to Abu Dhabi was a Boeing 777 flight, Perth to Abu Dhabi was announced as a VA A330 route but got canned before it actually took off. https://www.executivetraveller.com/virgin-australia-axes-perth-abu-dhabi-flights

chuboy

chuboy

06 Nov 2018

Total posts 3

I was talking about SYD-AUH and SYD-JNB, which were served by the 777 back when the international arm was called V Australia.

I'll concede that PER-AUH never got off the ground, but unlike Brisbane-Tokyo, it was a bad idea to start with given the saturation in the market between the Middle East and Perth. I think it's a rather unfair generalisation to suggest that Virgin fails as a newcomer where others would succeed in the medium-long haul international space.

tmsmile

tmsmile

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Nov 2011

Total posts 109

If it's international arm was successful it wouldn't be losing so much money...

reeves35

reeves35

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 558

Good to see competition in the AU-Japan market. Leading into the Olympics is a good time to launch the new route. I assume VA will be reducing its HKG services for the foreseeable future due to the political climate there crushing demand for all airlines so VA will probably be able to add these new services without changing the number of A332s used for domestic services.

DownSouth

DownSouth

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 106

Fantastic news! Well done IASC terrific decision. Really positive news for all travellers but particularly VA FF's, combined with the ANA tie up that's a powerful proposition from SYD/MEL/BNE/PER to HND and the onwards ANA connections all over Japan. Looking forward to this route starting, well done Virgin.

StuParr

StuParr

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

01 Mar 2012

Total posts 169

This is good news. With only one service a day currently it is only right that there should be competition on the route.

Greg84

Greg84

03 Nov 2014

Total posts 89

Being a Brisbane flyer - I'd fly Virgin if it meant arrival into Haneda over Narita...makes it much easier to get in & out.

deany83

deany83

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jul 2014

Total posts 135

I'm real keen to see which destination JAL opt for

Albinoni1967

Albinoni1967

01 Nov 2018

Total posts 40

Will Virgin be using their Airbus A330 for this hopefully not 737s

Tremere

Tremere

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

30 Aug 2018

Total posts 2

No 737 model can fly that far.

Extra A330's aren't hard to get at the moment, but it is equally likely a Perth or HKG sector gets the chop.

Flyer86

Flyer86

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Mar 2018

Total posts 3

My guess is HK will be reduced ie Syd HKG goes to 4 weekly , Mel 3x weekly this.

DanV

DanV

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 127

VA won't be doing a less than daily split service to HKG between two cities. If the plane is not coming from the PER TransCons, it's a given that one of SYD-HKG or MEL-HKG will be getting the chop.

bmc

bmc

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Aug 2013

Total posts 139

Another Star Alliance partner for Virgin would be just awesome for VFF. Hope this happens and the partnership is for full reciprocal access between both programs

hutch

hutch

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1229

Good decision. I really hope an upgrade is a possibility for their A330 economy seat though... Ain't that great! Though unlikely given their current situation.

Himeno

Himeno

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 931

Terrible idea.

Flying to HND as a carriers first Japan route is extremely unusual. VA had made no indication prior to the announcement of new AU HND slots that they were in any way interested in the Japan route. They applied for this simply to prevent Qantas from getting a slot. If VA is truly interested in the Japan route, they should start flying to NRT.

VA has a history of lackluster performance on long haul flights. JNB, AUH, HKT all gone, HKG in trouble.

As things stand now, there is no reason to think that VA won't simply drop the route a month or two after the Olympics.

FrequentFlyer

FrequentFlyer

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Mar 2012

Total posts 212

Not a terrible idea at all? The most lucrative airport in the whole country! Great starting point for flights to Japan imo. Underserved, expensive market.

bmc

bmc

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Aug 2013

Total posts 139

What's wrong with HND? I've flown there with ANA and it was very convenient, in less than 30min you're in Tokyo via the monorail

tmsmile

tmsmile

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Nov 2011

Total posts 109

Has already been muted that VA will pull out of SYDHKG.

I really do wish VA would stop messing around with international and get some sort of proper strategy for their businesses before flushing money down the toilet.

reeves35

reeves35

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 558

I think it is unlikely that VA will pull out of HKG completely particularly as its JV with VS is only just beginning but it is highly likely that VA will reduce some services for the foreseeable future due to the political situation in Hong Kong which has crushed demand for everyone. UA has already indicated it will be reducing its services on the back of a 38% drop in bookings. I would expect to see most airlines that service HKG reduce their capacity including QF and CX.

Michael Kao

Michael Kao

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Nov 2014

Total posts 340

The approval is conditional right? Maybe the condition is to ask VA not to pull out the route for 10 years. Otherwise it is so unfair to BNE/QLDer when we had a good chance of having NH and JL coming back to BNE. Now VA took the spot, JL and NH will go to other cities. In 18 months if VA drop the route, we are back at a market that's under served with QF monopoly.

reeves35

reeves35

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 558

The conditions are more procedural in that services must commence by 29/3, would cancel if a change of ownership meant the rights were no longer validly held and the ANA codeshare would not be applicable without further approval if ANA and VA operated parallel services. The approval is interim which means there is a brief appeal period. It is rare that a decision is overturned during this period.

It would be unlikely a 10 year condition would be imposed on any airline; such a restriction would mean no airline would attempt new routes.

Himeno

Himeno

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 931

It's a draft, they haven't approved anything yet.

Australian authorities also tend not to approve anything for 10 years, even when requested. The standard for approvals has been 5 years.

captainmax

captainmax

21 Nov 2014

Total posts 3

Wonder what the times will be

Would love a mid morning arrival late afternoon departure

DanV

DanV

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 127

Mid morning departure ex-BNE late arvo arrival at HND. Evening departure ex-HND.

In other words, those are "day" slots (e.g quick turnaround at HND).

Himeno

Himeno

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 931

These day slots would require either departing Australia between 7 and 11am to arrive in Tokyo between 3 and 7pm, then turn around and depart between 5 and 9pm, or depart Australia overnight to arrive in Tokyo just after 6am, then a depart Tokyo between 8 and 10am.

bmc

bmc

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Aug 2013

Total posts 139

It would be nice if they timed the flight so same day connections from and to other Australian airports was possible


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