Virgin Australia has received valuable support from regulatory and tourism bodies as it vies with Qantas for new access to Tokyo Haneda Airport.

The Japanese government has allocated two additional Haneda slots to Australian carriers as part of a planned capacity expansion at the airport. The slots will be awarded to airlines by Australia’s International Air Services Commission (IASC).

Qantas has applied for both slots, to operate flights from Melbourne and Sydney to Haneda, while Virgin has requested one slot for a flight from Brisbane. Qantas already serves both of Tokyo’s airports, while Virgin currently has no service to Japan.

In a submission to the IASC, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recommended the airlines receive one slot each. Such an approach “would promote competition to a much greater extent than allocating both frequencies to Qantas,” the ACCC said. The ACCC noted that Virgin serves Japan via codeshares on foreign carriers, so flying the Tokyo route with its own aircraft would make it a much more effective player in this market.

Tourism Australia (TA), the country’s main tourism organization, supported Virgin’s application for a Haneda service. Virgin’s entry would bring a fourth player to the Australia-Japan market, and would mean benefits for travelers and boost tourist flows, the TA said. Its submission stated that Japan is Australia’s fifth largest source of visitors, and this market has “responded well to increases in aviation capacity to Australia in recent years.” Arrivals from Japan have been growing at about 10% a year.

The Queensland state government also backed Virgin’s proposed Brisbane-Haneda route, and said Japan is one of its “highest priority markets with significant tourism growth potential.” Other Queensland organizations, including Brisbane Airport Corp., filed submissions supporting Virgin’s application.

Adrian Schofield, adrian.schofield@informa.com