The battle by Qantas to shut Virgin Australia out of Tokyo’s Haneda airport has suffered another blow, this time from Australia’s Department of Transport.
Virgin Australia has told the International Air Services Commission it wants to start flying to Japan using one of two daily slots available to Australian carriers at Haneda.
It proposes starting nonstop Brisbane-Haneda flights using an Airbus A330-200 from March 29 and partnering with All Nippon Airways.
But Qantas wants both slots and has questioned Virgin’s ability to sustain services on the route.
The Flying Kangaroo wrote to the IASC urging it to satisfy itself that Virgin meets the “reasonable capability” requirements of its policy statement.
It asked the commission to rigorously examine the extent to which Virgin was capable of obtaining licenses, permits or other approvals to operate the service and whether it could use the allocated capacity.
The commission put the question to the Department of Transport and on Thursday it published the answer.
“Based on current information, the Department considers VAIA (Virgin Australia International Airlines is reasonably capable of obtaining the relevant licenses, permits and other approvals required to operate on and service the Australia-Tokyo (Haneda) route and using the capacity that VAIA has sought in its application,’’ the department said.
The department also expressed the view that if an Australian airline was allocated a slot and subsequently was unable to establish or sustain operations, the slot would be made available to another Australian airline.
“However, this would ultimately be a decision for the Japanese authorities,’’ it said.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has also weighed in on the debate, telling the commission it believes that allocating the airlines one slot each would promote competition to a much greater extent than handing both to Qantas.
“The ACCC considers that allocating one frequency to each of Virgin Australia and Qantas would facilitate greater competition between Virgin Australia and Qantas, and other foreign carriers, on routes between Australia and Japan (including Brisbane and Tokyo),’’ the ACCC said.