Jetstar’s flights between Tokyo and Cairns took off on Wednesday after nearly two and a half years, with the airline preparing to welcome thousands of visitors from Japan into tropical north Queensland each week.
While restrictions remain in place for independent tourists travelling from Australia to Japan, Japanese citizens are now able to travel freely between the two countries.
The airline will operate up to five return flights per week between Cairns and Narita (Tokyo), bringing up to 1,600 people into Australia from Japan every week.
Tourism Tropical North Queensland chair Ken Chapman said it was a huge step forward.
The first return flight from Tokyo to Cairns, which is close to sold out, will take off on Thursday night and touch down early Friday morning.
Jetstar Group CEO Gareth Evans said today is another important milestone in rebuilding Jetstar’s international network.
“Australia has always been a popular destination for Japanese travellers, and we’re excited to be able to reconnect the two countries, providing a significant tourism boost to the local Cairns community and Queensland more broadly,” Evans said.
“Jetstar is the first Australian carrier to relaunch flights between Australia and Japan, and we’re already seeing a lot of pent-up demand from Japanese travellers eager to visit Australia.
“Japan has also always been a popular destination for Australians, and we look forward to welcoming an announcement from the Japanese Government about the easing of international restrictions, which will allow two-way travel between the two countries.”
Following today’s launch, Jetstar will resume services between Cairns and Osaka (Kansai) on 26 July.
Before the pandemic, approximately 110,000 people a year visited from Japan, with many staying in North Queensland.
“They come here really for the reef and rainforest as the main attractions … they get out and about and they do adventure activities, all sorts of things,” Chapman said.
“They’re good spenders as well — about $1,300 per person, so they’re great.
“They’ve been great for the economy.”
Cairns Airport chief operating officer Garry Porter said ticket sales to Cairns were selling quickly but flights out were slower to sell due to Japans border restrictions.
“They’ve still got some restrictions inbound, but we’re pretty confident in the next month to six weeks that those restrictions will hopefully start to ease,” Porter said.
“There’s a delegation up there, as we speak, for the first departures and first arrivals from Cairns and we’re out there looking at how we can work with COVID protocols.”
Chapman said it could still be a year before the industry has fully recovered.