Virgin Australia will almost certainly be operating flights from Brisbane to Tokyo’s Haneda airport early next year, judging by the latest update from the International Air Services Commission (IASC).
The airline has been in a battle with Qantas over one of two lucrative landing slots at Haneda airport ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, with Australia’s national carrier also making a bid for the other slot.
Virgin’s bid received support from multiple government organisations, including the ACCC, Tourism Australia, the Queensland Government, and Brisbane Airport.
The IASC handed down its five-year draft determination yesterday, allocating Virgin and Qantas each one daily frequency in each direction to operate passenger services on the Japan route to service Tokyo-Haneda.
The capacity may be used by Virgin for the provision of codeshare services on the Japan route with All Nippon Airways, subject to certain conditions.
“The commission finds, consistently with the ACCC’s submission, that the entry of another Australian carrier (Virgin Australia in this instance) would likely stimulate competition in the market for air services between Australia and Japan as all airlines offering services between Australia and Japan would be incentivised to compete on price and/or services to attract customers,” the IASC said.
“The entry of another carrier on the route would likely elicit a competitive response from other airlines operating on the Australia-Japan route and would likely lead to improved services and airfare competition, providing greater benefit to the public.”
In bidding for both Haneda slots, Qantas claimed its proposal was the only “no risk” option, and called on the IASC to rigorously examine the capability of its rival in the capacity for which they applied.
However, the IASC said all international aviation carries some commercial risk, and Virgin has taken the necessary steps for commercial operation into the future, addressing handling, promotion, and commercial partnerships.
“Further, information received by the commission indicates that there is no rule preventing new carriers entering the Japan route (as in the case of Virgin Australia) from operating services to and from Haneda.”
In a statement to Travel Weekly, 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.”
A Qantas spokesperson told Travel Weekly: “We look forward to adding even more flights from Australia to Haneda Airport. We’ll confirm whether these flights will operate from Melbourne or Sydney shortly.
Those wanting to respond to the IASC’s draft determination have until 24 October 2019 to make a submission.