North welcomes a new source of visitors as Virgin locks in Tokyo route

A world-first Virgin Australia flight connecting Cairns to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport is signalling a welcome return of Japanese visitors to Far North Queensland and an injection of much-needed tourism dollars into the state.


Oct 16, 2023, updated Nov 10, 2023
Virgin Australia's new Boeing 737-8 used on its inaugural Cairns to Haneda route

Virgin Australia's new Boeing 737-8 used on its inaugural Cairns to Haneda route

The flight to Japan, which launched at the end of June with a “Hello Tokyo” sale boasting tickets from as little as $699 return, was first floated in 2019 but scuppered due to the global pandemic.

Now Virgin Australia, in partnership with the Queensland Government and Cairns Airport, has added more than 2000 seats per week between the tropics and Tokyo which is expected to bring more than 30,000 additional inbound visitors into Cairns each year.

The direct route – which takes around 7.5 hours – is supported by Queensland’s $200 million Attracting Aviation Investment Fund in partnership with the state’s four international airports.

Virgin Australia’s 737-8 can fly guests from Cairns to Tokyo in under 8 hours

Announcing the route late last year, Queensland Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said Far North Queensland held specific appeal for Japanese visitors.

“Japan is an important part of our inbound international tourism recovery plan for iconic destinations like Cairns and Tropical North Queensland,” Hinchcliffe said.

“From World Heritage-listed rainforests to the Great Barrier Reef, we know Japanese travellers love Tropical North Queensland’s great lifestyle and first-class visitor experiences.

“Virgin Australia direct from Japan is terrific news for tourism operators, generating almost $70 million for the Tropical North’s visitor economy and supporting 680 Queensland jobs.”

Virgin Australia’s new 737-8 reduces emissions by up to 15 per cent

Tourism Tropical North Queensland CEO Mark Olsen has told InQueensland that the route was “performing well” with average load factors of 70 per cent and increasing.

“Having two airlines flying direct to Cairns will enable the destination to rebuild the valuable Japanese market which delivered 112,000 visitors into the region before the pandemic when Jetstar was the only airline with direct flights from Japan,” Olsen said.

“Virgin Australia codeshares with All Nippon Airways (ANA) which services many regional Japanese cities providing a connection for people living all over Japan to experience Tropical North Queensland’s new hotels, restaurants and sustainable tourism experiences.

“Cairns is the closest gateway to Australia for Japan with just a one-hour time difference and a year-round warm climate perfect for holidaymakers, education groups and business event delegates.  TTNQ is working very hard to attract Japanese travellers with four marketing campaigns currently in the market.”

Expect a Japanese flavour to this new Virgin Australia flight

Passengers aboard the new daily route are privy to new aircraft with Virgin Australia operating a Boeing 737-8 between Cairns and Haneda.

The 737-8 is designed to reduce emissions by up to 15 per cent per flight compared with Boeing’s 737-800 common on Virgin Australia’s domestic routes, while onboard, guests have access to electronic device holders and charging ports.

Items for purchase on Virgin Australia’s inflight menu pay homage to the new route with the likes of Japanese Style Chicken Curry, Japanese Green Tea, Miso Soup, Miso Noodles and 4 Pines Japanese Lager.

Passengers can select from three classes of seating on this leg including Business, Economy X and Economy.

The writer travelled as a guest of Virgin Australia, Crystalbrook Flynn Cairns and Hotel Indigo Shibuya.






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