Aviation

Virgin Australia claps back against fresh claims it isn’t ready for Haneda

Virgin Australia has responded to fresh criticism it isn’t ready to serve flights to Japan’s Haneda airport.

After being allocated a slot for one daily frequency between Brisbane and Tokyo-Haneda by the International Air Services Commission (IASC) in its five-year draft determination, Virgin Australia faces fresh criticism from a new submission.

“As things currently stand, I don’t feel that Virgin Australia should receive any Haneda slots at this time,” Amy Tomoe, who claims to be a regular Australia-Japan route traveller, writes in her submission.

“Virgin has a terrible track record with international flights … What is to prevent Virgin from operating to [Haneda] for 12–18 months, then pulling out?”

Tomoe cited Qantas’ concern that it is “highly unusual” for a new operator to Japan to go through Haneda first, instead of Narita International Airport. She also suggested the airline was only seeking a slot to Haneda-Tokyo to prevent Qantas from getting it – a claim made despite the fact Qantas has been allocated one of the two lucrative long-haul slots available between Australia and Haneda.

Virgin Australia denied the claim it was vying for one of the slots to stop Qantas from having it, and said it was aware of at least one other carrier that has entered the Japan market through Haneda – Hawaiian Airlines.

“I don’t believe the submission … provides any new argument and fails to adequately address the criteria in the Minister’s policy statement. In particular, the submission does not seem to give any regard to competition matters,” Lee-Anne Tomkins, general manager government and international relations, Virgin Australia, writes.

“We are an established international carrier, and it is important to mention that while we have exited some international routes in the past, this is no different to Qantas (or most other international airlines), which has changed its route network over the years.

“The fact that we would be a new entrant to the Japanese market is not relevant to the case.

“We reject the submission’s comments in relation to the importance of connections for us at [Haneda] and would refer the Commission back to our submission in this regard,” Tomkins said.

Virgin’s bid received nearly unanimous support, including support from several government organisations: the ACCC, Tourism Australia, the Queensland Government, and Brisbane Airport.

Canberra Airport has also gotten behind Virgin Australia, with managing director Stephen Byron writing late last week that granting “one slot each to Qantas and Virgin opens up the opportunity for three Australian cities to connect with Haneda, as opposed to just Sydney and Melbourne as Qantas proposes.”

Virgin has been granted capacity for the provision of codeshare services on the Japan route with All Nippon Airways, subject to certain conditions.

In a statement to Travel Weekly following the allocation, a Virgin Australia spokesperson said: “We’re pleased that the International Air Services Commission has issued a draft determination proposing to award Virgin Australia with one of the daily frequencies to Haneda, Japan.

“Virgin Australia plans to use this allocation to operate a daily service between Brisbane and Haneda from 29 March 2020 and 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.”

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