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Richard Branson popped up at Brisbane Airport to formally announce the first ever Virgin flights from Brissy to Tokyo

Sharon Masige
  • Virgin Australia announced its first flight service from Brisbane to Haneda, Tokyo.
  • Sir Richard Branson was in Brisbane for the announcement, arriving on the baggage carousel surrounded by plates of sushi.
  • The daily service will begin from March 29, 2020.

You'll soon be able to fly from Brissy to Tokyo with Virgin Australia.

The airline celebrated the announcement of its new daily service from Brisbane to Haneda, Tokyo on Thursday.

The new service, which will begin from 29 March 2020, connects both airlines for the first time ever, just in time for the Olympics.

As part of the celebrations, Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson arrived through the baggage carousel at Brisbane Airport surrounded by plates of giant sushi – thankfully, not real sushi.

"I've always liked visiting Japan and, you know, I've been visiting it since I was a teenager and now I'm going to be able to afford to go there," Branson told Business Insider Australia.

Branson added he enjoyed the skiing in Japan. "It's got some of the best powder snow anywhere in the world," he said.

Branson then recalled one of his experiences in Japan, when he became the first person to cross the Pacific Ocean in a hot air balloon.

"There's an island near the south of Japan that I took off in a hot air balloon to cross the Pacific many years ago...called Miyakonojō. We were aiming for Los Angeles, we missed it by two and a half thousand miles and ended up in the Arctic, but we got there."

Virgin Australia Group Managing Director and CEO Paul Scurrah told Business Insider Australia that it was rare to be able to announce a new flight route.

"These slots and the opportunities to fly in and out of Haneda in Tokyo are few and far between, so getting access to one of those, and then getting great support from the Brisbane Airport and the Queensland Government to make this possible is a really exciting day for us."

When asked why it has taken a while for Brisbane to secure a slot to Japan, Scurrah explained that they are very tightly held positions.

"It is a lot closer to the centre of Tokyo, it's a lot more appealing to business traffic because it's a shorter commute once they land. So they are very hotly contested [spots]."

So we're thrilled to have been awarded one and we will make sure that it brings competition to the skies and the Virgin flair that people have come to know and love."

Both Qantas and Virgin had made bids for slots – while Qantas had aimed to get both, Virgin only sought one slot, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. In the end, the Australian International Air Services Commission issued a draft decision to hand one slot to each airline.

The new flight route comes amid Virgin Australia announcing it's cutting some of its international and domestic routes. The airline will be cutting its flights from Melbourne to Hong Kong and Sydney to Christchurch, as well as domestic routes including Canberra to Perth and the Gold Coast to Perth, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Scurrah told Business Insider Australia that the airline will always balance the routes that it does and doesn't fly "based on how they perform and the opportunity to be successful and profitable and sustainable."

"Even though we have made some decisions to reduce capacity in the domestic market, when an opportunity like this comes up, we're going to grab it."

Tourism Industry Development Minister Kate Jones said in a statement that the new service is a win for the state's tourism industry and for Japanese travellers.

"Almost half of all Japanese travellers to Australia come to Queensland," she said in a statement. "This service will bring 100,000 extra seats to Queensland every year. These flights are worth $250 million over the next three years."

The Tokyo service will become Virgin Australia’s 13th international destination from Brisbane, which Virgin claims is the most international flights out of Brisbane of any airline.

It will use Airbus A330-200 planes, which include 20 business class seats, 255 economy seats and 8 Economy X seats.

Tickets on the new route will be available from December.