Virgin Australia is set to launch daily Brisbane-Haneda flights next year, following a decision by Australia’s International Air Services Commission (IASC) to give one new slot each to Qantas and Virgin Australia at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.
Qantas had applied for both of the two daytime new take-off and landing slots available from next March at Haneda Airport for Australian carriers. Virgin Australia applied for one of the two slots.
As both airlines were competing for limited airport slots, the IASC called on public submissions from the airlines and other affected parties. It received 11 submissions, with most in favour of Virgin Australia receiving a slot due to the obvious competition benefits. Some parties such as Destination NSW, however, did support Qantas’ application.
The IASC today released a draft determination, granting one daily Haneda Airport frequency each to Virgin Australia and Qantas. The closing date for submissions on the draft determination is now 24 October, after which time a final decision will be made. In our view, it’s extremely unlikely that Virgin won’t receive approval to fly from Brisbane to Haneda at this point.
In reaching its decision, the IASC determined that Virgin Australia is reasonably capable of obtaining all of the necessary approvals and starting daily A330 flights from Brisbane to Tokyo in March 2020. It said:
Having considered all information received by the Commission on the matter, the Commission is of the view there is no regulatory impediment for Virgin Australia to apply for a slot allocation from the Japanese civil aviation authorities in order to operate services between Brisbane and Haneda. In relation to Qantas’ claim that their proposal is the only “no risk” option, the Commission notes that all international aviation carries some commercial risk, but the Commission finds that Virgin Australia has taken the necessary steps for commercial operation into the future, addressing handling, promotion, and commercial partnerships.
On the issue of competition in the market, the IASC said:
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 frequencies will be granted for five years, commencing from March 2020.
Qantas has not yet publicly declared whether they intend to use their additional Haneda flight to add a second-daily Sydney-Haneda service or switch its Melbourne-Narita flight to Haneda Airport.
Virgin Australia plans to codeshare with ANA on flights between Australia and Japan. This will be great news for Virgin flyers as ANA has an excellent product, including in Economy class.
Virgin Australia welcomed the announcement. A 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.
“We can’t wait to provide guests with the best value fares and our unique Virgin experience to Japan.”
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Airlines eye new slots at Haneda (Tokyo)