CEO-Board Updates

December 2022 CEO Update

Virgin Australia will launch direct flights from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to Cairns from 28 June 2023 bringing more than 30,000 additional visitors to Tropical North Queensland as a result of the first Cairns Airport deal through the Queensland Government’s $200 million Attracting Aviation Investment Fund.

Queensland Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe, Virgin Australia Chief Executive Officer Jayne Hrdlicka, Cairns Airport CEO Richard Barker and TTNQ Chair Ken Chapman announced the new Japanese service in Cairns today.

The Haneda to Cairns connection is the key to growing international travel to Cairns as it delivers connectivity and consistency with a trusted brand at the airport that frequent Japanese travellers are used to travelling through. Virgin Australia is a full-service carrier and is aligned with All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s national airline which has strong global connectivity.

It will be a great complement to the current Jetstar services which have a strong leisure customer base through their long-term direct services to Cairns. Having two airlines flying direct to Cairns next year will enable the destination to rebuild the valuable Japanese market which delivered 112,000 visitors into the region before the pandemic.

The Boeing 737-8 which Virgin Australia will use for the new Haneda connection will be a game changer for our region as these long-range narrow-body aircraft are more fuel efficient and therefore cost effective.

In addition to leisure travel, this service will create potential for the business events market, as well as trade and investment thanks to a brand the Japanese trust at an airport they know.

Our tourism industry is very excited about this connection, as are our Japanese trade partners who sell Cairns as the closest gateway to Australia with just one-hour time difference and summer all year round.

This welcome news comes as we look forward to a busy Christmas and New Year after record domestic expenditure leading into winter. As expected, we had a quiet start to summer in the absence of our international guests.

The return of our key international markets is desperately needed to fill our shoulder seasons and the potential fall in domestic figures as interest rates and inflation tighten spending, but we cannot expect overseas visitors to increase much until the second half of 2023.

Aviation connectivity and affordability is critical to future success in our international markets where we will be working hard next near thanks to the Federal Government’s $15 million for international recovery over the next three years.

Our industry’s wish for 2023 is for strategic and consistent connections to allow easy access from our key international markets.

We want Singapore Airlines to increase their flights to a daily service to grow the Southeast Asian and European markets, Air New Zealand to move from seasonal to year-round flights to service the North American market, and we hope China will open to the world once again next year.

Of course, we still want more Australians to discover why Tropical North Queensland was so popular when international borders were closed and we hope those travellers who Left Greater return to experience more!

Best wishes for a safe and happy festive season with loved ones and I look forward to reconnecting with you all in the New Year when we band together to accelerate Tropical North Queensland’s international recovery.


Mark Olsen
Chief Executive Officer