Virgin Australia is creating a world first for Brisbane and Queensland, by launching direct flights to Tokyo Haneda airport, the quickest way to the Japanese capital from 14 June 2020.
Virgin Australia is a new entrant to the Australia to Japan market, even though it had previously sold seats on Singapore (SQ) operated flights on a code-share ticket. These direct flights would save over 10 hours on an indirect flight via Singapore.
Virgin Australia's brand awareness is much higher in Australia than Japan, and so is expected to have a much higher percentage of Australian passengers on its initial flights. Expect to hear a lot more Australian accents on these flights, even though Virgin Australia has been in the process of hiring Japanese speaking flight attendants this year. Of course, if you prefer to put your headphones on, the in-flight entertainment and Wi-Fi offering is excellent, as it has operated long haul services since 27 February 2009.
It is currently scheduled for a late morning departure from Brisbane, with enough time for passengers from other airports in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific to fly into Brisbane in the early morning to connect with this Brisbane Haneda flight.
Prior to Virgin Australia's entry, Brisbane to Tokyo was only operated by Qantas with a Narita service. While passengers usually need to pay a premium for direct services compared with indirect services via Asia, there are selective sales for this service to Haneda, with return economy fares starting from $689.
This service arrives in Tokyo Haneda at 8pm, allowing passengers time to see the sights, have supper in Shibuya or relax for a good night’s sleep in Tokyo. From Haneda at 8pm there are connections by bullet train to Osaka, Nagano, alternatively overnight for next day connections to Sapporo or Okinawa. Near Haneda there are a number of public baths to relax and enjoy Japanese culture before starting afresh the next morning.
Haneda’s increasingly attractive connectivity for international flights provide another opportunity for this flight. Virgin Atlantic for example, used to operate from London to Narita. If its bid for a London to Haneda slot is successful, then it could connect with Virgin Australia’s Brisbane service. It is shorter to fly from Brisbane to London via Tokyo, compared to Singapore and so a Virgin operated flight from Brisbane to London could be attractive.
Virgin Australia has also announced a code share arrangement with All Nippon Airlines (ANA) from the second half of 2020 for this flight as well as selected domestic flights in Japan. Elite members of the Virgin Australia Velocity program can then earn points on these flights as well as access ANA elite privileges, such as lounge access for eligible members.