There has been a lot of noise lately about the tentative awarding of slot pairs at Tokyo’s Haneda airport to both Qantas and Virgin Australia. We know Virgin plans to start operating flights by the end of March from Brisbane using A330-200 aircraft. We also know Qantas has to make a decision about whether to fly to Haneda from Melbourne or go double daily from Sydney.
What is less talked about is that Japanese airlines have also been awarded two slot pairs at Haneda earmarked for flights to Australia. Japan Airlines and ANA both fly into Australia. Like the Australian regulator, I presume the Japanese regulator will act in the interests of fairness and give each airline one slot pair each.
Which raises the question, what will they do with them?
ANA already flies into Sydney and Perth each day and they are going to be codesharing with Virgin Australia on their Brisbane – Haneda route. It leaves Melbourne or even Adelaide. The money would have to be on Melbourne, doubly so if Qantas elects to use their new slot pair with a double daily run to Haneda from Sydney.
Between Japan Airlines, ANA and Qantas ,there are quite a few flights at the moment out of Sydney heading up to either Narita or Haneda. ANA adding a second daily flight out of Sydney would crowd that market further, making Melbourne a more obvious and viable choice.
Japan Airlines already fly to Narita from both Sydney and Melbourne. They are likely to simply swap an existing flight over to Haneda rather than start another flight. The general chitchat is that it’s likely to be their Sydney flight.
The Japanese airlines have been sitting quietly on their Australian plans. I suspect much will depend on what Qantas elects to do. If Qantas goes double daily from Sydney, there’s a gap in the market in Melbourne. If Qantas decides to run with Melbourne – Haneda, Japan Airlines especially will probably sit tight and simply switch its Sydney – Narita flight over to Haneda.
And the end result of all these machinations? There will be more capacity on the Australia – Japan flights and that’s a good thing for passengers, but there’s really only one new route, Virgin’s out of Brisbane. For all the Haneda versus Narita debate, they’re still both Tokyo. It’s more a reshuffling and expansion of the existing deckchairs.