October 21, 2019 / 5:40 AM / 23 days ago

Qantas, Virgin Australia get slots at Tokyo's Haneda airport

(Reuters) - Qantas Airways (QAN.AX) and Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd (VAH.AX) were awarded one slot each to operate flights at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, according to a draft decision by Australia’s International Air Services Commission (IASC).

FILE PHOTO: Two Qantas Airways aircrafts can be seen on the tarmac near the domestic terminal at Sydney Airport in Australia, November 30, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray

The opening at Haneda Airport, which is closer to central Tokyo than Narita airport, comes as Virgin Australia’s new CEO Paul Scurrah looks to rejig the loss-making airline’s route network to better compete against deep-pocketed rival Qantas.

Haneda Airport has a limited number of slots and pinned the two Australian carriers up against each other for the lucrative opportunity. Qantas had applied for both slots, while Virgin Australia applied for just the one.

A final decision by IASC will come sometime after it closes a submission deadline on Oct. 24 about its draft call, according to its statement issued on Monday.

Virgin Australia, which is trying to raise debt to fund the full takeover of its frequent flyer program, said in an emailed statement it plans to use its allocated slot to operate a daily service between Brisbane and Haneda from March next year.

The airline plans to codeshare with ANA Holdings Inc (9202.T) on flights between Australia and Japan.

Virgin Australia, however, did not say where the aircraft will come from. Scurrah declined previously to rule out cutting flights to Hong Kong as part of its route and fleet review.

Australia’s competition regulator earlier this month had backed Virgin’s application for a slot, citing competition concerns if Qantas were to get both.

The draft decision comes ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games set to begin next summer.

IASC, in its draft, said the Japanese government released 100 extra aircraft arrivals and departures per day at Haneda, aimed solely at international flights.

A Qantas spokesman said his airline looked forward to operating more flights to Haneda.

“We’ll confirm whether these flights will operate from Melbourne or Sydney shortly,” he said in an emailed statement.

Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Jamie Freed in Singapore; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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