Snagging landing slots at either Narita or Haneda Airports in Tokyo is notoriously hard. But yesterday Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism was handing out slots at Haneda and awarded four pairs (that is, take off and landing slots) to Australia-Japan routes.
Two of those slots are going to Japanese airlines, one each to ANA and JAL, and two to Australian airlines. Qantas and its subsidiary Jetstar are the only Australian airlines flying into any Japanese airports.
Presently only ANA and Qantas fly to Australia from Haneda, both offering direct Haneda-Sydney services.
Haneda is an attractive airport for travellers because it is much closer to Tokyo than Narita and considerably more user friendly.
There is no onus on the airlines to take up the slots. They have until March 29, 2020 to do so or they will lapse. It opens up speculation about new routes. Given that Haneda-Sydney is already decently served, the focus is on other Australian cities.
Melbourne and Brisbane are the obvious starters. JAL has only reasonably recently resumed flying into Melbourne. A Melbourne-Haneda service would be a nice compliment to its existing Melbourne-Narita service.
Brisbane would make a logical destination for Qantas. Maybe a Jetstar flight from Cairns?
Which brings us to ANA. They’ve only just started Narita-Perth last week, their second Australian destination after Sydney. Would Adelaide be a viable option for them? Could Adelaide sustain a daily service to Japan? Like Perth, they would have a monopoly on the route.
Alternatively, flights currently operating out of Narita could switch over to Haneda, freeing up hotly contested Narita slots for services elsewhere. That scenario cannot be discounted.
Either way, yesterday’s announcement sets the scene for a bit of a shakeout in the Australia-Japan market over the next few months.