According to The Australian Financial Review today, Japanese airline All Nippon Airways is this week expected to unveil plans to fly between Sydney and Tokyo for the first time in 16 years, in a move that will be welcomed by the local tourism industry but will challenge rivals Qantas Airways and Japan Airlines.
ANA is poised to launch daily flights between Sydney and Tokyo's Haneda Airport using a Boeing 787-9 aircraft from October, according to Australian Business Traveller and other aviation industry sources, although a company spokesman on Friday said he was unable to confirm the speculation at that time.
The re-entry into the Australian market comes as Qantas adds capacity by flying daily A330 services between Brisbane and Tokyo and shifts its Sydney-Tokyo flights to Haneda, which is closer to the Japanese capital's CBD than the more distant Narita International Airport, in August. JAL offers daily services between Sydney and Narita, while low-cost carrier Jetstar flies to Japan from Melbourne, the Gold Coast and Cairns.
ANA is a member of the Star Alliance alongside Air New Zealand, United Airlines and other carriers, whereas Qantas and JAL are both in the oneworld alliance. It remains unclear whether it will seek a codesharing arrangement with Virgin Australia. Virgin services Japan through codeshares with its shareholder and partner Singapore Airlines, but those require a time-consuming stop in Singapore.
The arrival of ANA, which is now Japan's largest airline, will be welcomed by the local tourism industry. The number of Japanese visitors to Australia fell by 0.1 per cent to 323,900 in the 12 months to May relative to the prior year, according to the latest arrivals data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. That is well down on the 800,000-plus annual Japanese visitors to Australia in the mid-1990s and the low growth rate makes it one of the worst-performing inbound markets.
However, the number of Australians heading to Japan rose by 22 per cent to 267,300 over same period, perhaps driven by factors such as a weak yen and new Jetstar flights between Melbourne and Tokyo.
ANA's 787-9s have 215 seats split between business class, premium economy class and economy class.