MIAMI – In a joint statement, Qantas (QF) and Japan Airlines (JL) have expressed their dissatisfaction with a decision taken by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on their joint business destined to boost recovery as soon as the borders re-open and tourism resumes.

In 2020, both airlines applied for approval of a plan on a cłose cooperation to improve passenger traffic between Australia, New Zealand, and Japan and bring about a sustained recovery for all national airlines involved.

The business agreement to be entered in by QF and JL would cover an expanded codeshare including 29 destinations along with better-coordinated schedules between the countries concerned along with a new route from Cairns (CNS) to Tokyo (NRT/HND) to be served by QF, coordinated pricing, schedules, sales leisure travel marketing meant to support growth in important tourist destinations.

Also included in the new deal, enhanced benefits for frequent flyers and supplemental premium travel facilities for both JL and QF customers. In the absence of the sought-after business agreement, QF and JL will continue to apply the existing codeshare agreement and their ongoing Oneworld partnership but without the benefits that the new agreement would have brought to the carriers.

Since 2012, JL and QF are joint partners in Jetstar Japan (GK), one of the largest Low-Cost Carriers (LCC) operating domestic routes in Japan, the third-largest world economy, and a long-time Australian trade and investment partner. During pre-pandemic 2019, approximately half a million Japanese visited Australia, making the destination one of the most relevant tourism markets now in need of a much sought-after economic recovery.

Japan Airlines Boeing 777-300 JA737J. Photo: Brad Tisdel/Airways

Comments from CEOs

QF’s Domestic and International CEO Andrew David commented on the decision taken by the ACCC by saying, “We’re obviously disappointed with this decision. A closer partnership between Qantas and Japan Airlines would have meant more routes, better flight connections, and more benefits to frequent flyers. None of these benefits will be realized following the ACCC’s decision.

“It is unfortunate that the opportunity to provide enhanced customer choice and extensive travel industry growth opportunities will not be realized.” Ross Leggett, JL Vice-President Route Marketing, International relations & Alliances Click To Tweet

He continued with his comments by adding, “We know the recovery of international travel is going to be slow and bumpy. 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. Getting that right will ultimately benefit the recovery of the Australian economy.

Andrew David pointed out that Australia’s Queensland and Cairns would “particularly be unfortunate” for not being able to benefit from direct services to NRT/HND operated by QF and take advantage of the premium tourism traffic from Japan.

Jetstar VH-VGV Airbus A320-232. Photo: Noah Pitkin/Airways

Qantas’ CEO clarified that “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.

Japan Airlines also expressed its disappointment by a declaration made by its Senior Vice-President Route Marketing and International Relations and Alliances stating, “Japan Airlines is also truly disappointed with the ACCC’s decision to disapprove our proposed joint business.”

The vice-president added, “We especially believed that the joint business with Qantas would have accelerated the recovery of Leisure and Business traffic between Japan and Australia, with clear economic and social benefits to both countries in the extremely challenging environment precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Featured image: Qantas Airbus A380 VH-OQH. Photo: Andrew Henderson/Airways