Virgin Australia will launch direct flights from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to Cairns from June 2023 bringing more than 30,000 additional visitors to Queensland.
Queensland Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe, Virgin Australia Chief Executive Officer Jayne Hrdlicka, Cairns Airport CEO Richard Barker and Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ) Chair Ken Chapman announced the new Japanese service in Cairns today (December 14).
TTNQ CEO Mark Olsen said the Haneda to Cairns connection was the key to growing international travel to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef as it delivered connectivity and consistency through a trusted brand.
“Virgin Australia will fly daily from June 28 and is aligned to Japan’s trusted brand, All Nippon Airways (ANA), through the airport that frequent Japanese travellers are used to travelling through,” he said.
“That consistency and frequency of travel to an essential airport in partnership with the global airline Virgin Australia will build confidence and help to drive more traffic into Cairns than a single airline could achieve by themselves.
“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.
“In addition to leisure travel, this service will open up the 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.”
Cairns Airport CEO Richard Barker said the launch was highly significant with data showing that a full-service carrier like Virgin Australia flying direct from Haneda Airport would boost Japanese visitor numbers to Cairns.
“Today’s announcement is a huge development for Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef with the long range, narrow body 737-8 a game changer for our region, bringing destinations such as Japan closer with more cost effective and fuel-efficient operations,” he said.
Minister Hinchliffe said the Queensland Government’s $200 million Attracting Aviation Investment Fund had landed its first Cairns Airport deal with the new connection which would generate $70 million in overnight visitor expenditure and provide 680 direct and indirect jobs.
Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka said the year-round daily service would add more than 2000 seats between Tokyo and Cairns every week meaning more value and choice for Australians wanting to travel to Japan.
“Importantly, it also means welcoming more Japanese tourists into the Sunshine State to enjoy our unrivalled natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef,” she said.