Tourism Australia backs Virgin over Qantas on new route to Japan

Virgin Australia has been backed by Tourism Australia as it looks to open a new route to Japan.

The airlines are currently vying for two landing slots at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, with Virgin asking for one slot and Qantas trying to secure both.

Tourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison has thrown her support behind Virgin over of Qantas, saying it would “increase capacity, add new flight and route options, enhance code-share connectivity and lower airfares”. Virgin currently does not fly to Japan.

“This opportunity will enable a fourth airline to enter the Japan route, bringing a new source of competition which would deliver significant benefits for travellers, boosting tourism flows,” Harrison said in a statement to Australia’s International Air Services Commission (IASC).

Virgin said it would use the slot to launch a daily service out of Brisbane using A330-200 aircraft starting on March 29 next year.

Virgin has also signed a partnership with Japan’s largest airline All Nippon Airways (ANA), which will see them code-share on flights between the two countries and on connecting domestic flights.

According to Department of Infrastructure data, Qantas and its alliance partner Japan Airlines currently have a 91 per cent market share of travellers flying directly between Australia and Japan and operate 90 per cent of the capacity,

Qantas has argued it was the only “no-risk” option which could start using the new capacity as soon as it becomes available next year.