Local News

Qantas Japan flights blocked in blow to Cairns tourism

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Qantas and Japan Airlines have been blocked from coordinating flights between Cairns and Tokyo over concerns it will reduce competition once international travel resumes.

The two airlines wanted a codeshare relationship to up to 29 destinations between Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

However, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says the deal would have allowed the carriers to stop competing on price for three years, and made it harder for others, such as Virgin, to compete.

ACCC chair Rod Sims says preserving competition is important to the long-term recovery of aviation and tourism, and reducing it would come at a detriment to passengers.

Qantas has expressed disappointment over the decision, saying it would have boosted economic activity amid the coronavirus downturn.

Qantas Domestic and International chief executive Andrew David says the partnership would have meant more routes, better flight connections and more benefits to frequent flyers.

"None of these benefits will be realised following the ACCC’s decision.”

"It will take years for the whole travel and tourism industry to fully recover from COVID, so getting the policy settings right is going to be critical as key routes are rebuilt essentially from scratch.

Mr David says it is particularly disheartening for Cairns because a direct flight to Tokyo would have proved extremely popular.

"Without being able to coordinate with JAL, and in particular to draw Japanese tourists into northern Queensland using JAL’s extensive marketing reach in Japan, the planned flights between Cairns and Tokyo are just not commercially viable for Qantas.

"We explained that dynamic to the ACCC at length, and we disagree with their assessment that the route is viable without the alliance.”