Qantas on Sunday resumed flights from Melbourne to Tokyo for the first time post-COVID.
The Qantas A330-300, VH-QPE, departed the Victorian capital at 12:23 pm on 26 March as flight QF79 and will arrive at Haneda at 7:30 pm.
The new A330 service operates four times a week and now travels to the closer Haneda Airport rather than its pre-COVID destination of Narita.
It means the Flying Kangaroo is now competing with Japan Airlines, which operates a three-times-a-week service from Melbourne to Narita, and will soon increase its frequency to four times weekly.
Qantas’ outgoing domestic and international CEO, Andrew David, said the airline had seen demand between the two countries had bounced back very strongly.
“Our research shows that it is one of the top tourist destinations that Australians plan on visiting in the next 12 months,” he said.
“Our customers in Victoria have been looking forward to the return of this route, with the flights launching in time for travellers to enjoy the cherry blossom season in Japan. Corporate travellers can also now save time on their airport commute by flying into or out of Haneda.
“We’re pleased we can now offer our customers much easier access to Tokyo city centre and the world’s third-largest economy from three major east coast Australian cities.”
Currently, the wider Qantas Group operates 35 return flights per week from Australia to Japan. This includes Qantas’ flights from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney to Haneda and Jetstar’s flights from Cairns to Narita and Osaka and Gold Coast to Narita.
The national carrier has been gradually rebuilding its network after restarting international flights in November 2021.
It will next launch a new route between Melbourne and Jakarta on 16 April to add to its direct Melbourne flights to Singapore, LA, Delhi, Bali and Dallas Fort Worth.
It follows chief executive Alan Joyce stating he expected his airline to return to 80 per cent pre-COVID international capacity by the middle of the year.
Australian Aviation reported last month how Qantas domestic and international CEO David would depart later this year, and his role would be split into two.
The restructuring means ex-Air New Zealand executive Cameron Wallace will become the new head of the Flying Kangaroo’s international operation in July, where he will take personal charge of Project Sunrise.
Project Sunrise is the code name for Qantas’s plan to fly non-stop from London and New York to the east coast of Australia using a new fleet of 12 specially-adapted A350-1000s. Its launch will be one of the most significant moments in the airline’s history.
Wallace held top positions at Air New Zealand for 14 years, including as its chief commercial officer. He subsequently departed to become the CEO of New Zealand media company MediaWorks.
“At the start of the pandemic, we rationalised the two CEO roles for Qantas Domestic and Qantas International down to one, given what was happening to our business,” explained CEO Alan Joyce.
“With Andrew retiring and given the amount of investment now in the pipeline, it makes sense to again have separate CEOs for the international and domestic businesses, which are both back to generating billions in revenue each year.
“Andrew has contributed a huge amount during his 10 years across both Qantas and Jetstar. His leadership of Qantas’ domestic, international and freight businesses has been pivotal, especially during the incredible challenge of putting the airline into hibernation and bringing it back again.
“On behalf of the board and the rest of the management team, I want to sincerely thank Andrew for what he’s done for the group.”