History Made with First Flight

History will be made at Cairns Airport today as Virgin Australia operates its first ever direct flight to Tokyo Haneda.

These daily direct flights are expected to draw tens of thousands of Japanese tourists to Tropical North Queensland each and every year, bolstering the region’s tourism industry and economy.

Guests travelling on the inaugural flight, due to take off at 1.15pm, will be farewelled with a colourful event to celebrate the occasion, complete with Japanese dancers, karaoke and bubble tea.

Cairns Airport Chief Operating Officer Garry Porter said it was ideal timing for the new direct services to commence.

“With the mild winter weather in Tropical North Queensland our region offers the perfect backdrop for visitors to enjoy our natural attractions and cultural experiences, everything the Japanese enjoy,” he said.

“It has been more than a decade since we had a full-service carrier servicing the route from Tokyo to Cairns, and that coincided with peak Japanese visitation, which is a great indication of the potential of these new flights.

“With Virgin Australia’s extensive domestic network in Cairns we also expect to see travellers from southern states opt to travel via Cairns to visit Japan, especially during the Japanese winter ski season, which is always a drawcard for Aussie winter sport enthusiasts.”

Velocity Frequent Flyer Chief Executive Officer and Japan Services Representative Nick Rohrlach said the launch of the service marked an exciting milestone for Virgin Australia.

“Today marks the start of our highly anticipated services to Haneda, Tokyo, which means Australian travellers will benefit from greater value and choice when flying to Japan as we expand our international footprint,” he said.

“We know that Cairns has consistently ranked as one of the most popular tourist destinations among Japanese visitors to Australia and we are thrilled to unlock a new convenient gateway for Japanese travellers to explore all Far North Queensland has to offer, while injecting a welcome boost of tourism into the region.”

Tourism Tropical North Queensland Chief Executive Officer Mark Olsen said five trade campaigns were currently underway in Japan to help rebuild the valuable market, which delivered 112,000 visitors to Cairns per year before the pandemic.

“We are excited by the travel opportunity this connection presents for people living all over Japan to see the region’s new hotels, restaurants and sustainable tourism experiences,” he said.

“Over the past week we have had 11 TTNQ members in Japan providing workshops to 300 key agents with the support of Tourism and Events Queensland and participated in the Tourism Australia Business Event Seminar earlier this month to help train agents working in that space.”
The service is supported by the Queensland Government’s Attracting Aviation Investment Fund.

Queensland Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said Virgin Australia’s direct flights to Cairns from Tokyo Haneda were important for rebuilding the state’s post-pandemic international visitor economy.

“The potential economic benefit of Virgin Australia’s new non-stop service from Japan to tourism and hospitality businesses in Tropical North Queensland is enormous,” he said.

“Up to 30,000 Japanese visitors a year are predicted to touch down in Cairns with Virgin Australia, generating around $69.5 million for the local visitor economy and supporting 680 good Queensland jobs.
“Direct airline connections are critical to Queensland’s international tourism recovery and that’s why the Palaszczuk Government is backing this service with our $200 million aviation war chest.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming Japanese visitors back to Cairns to enjoy Queensland’s great lifestyle and more of the Tropical North’s awe-inspiring, world-class tourism and cultural experiences.”