SAPPORO, Japan -- Australia's flag carrier Qantas secured an agreement with a Hokkaido-based resort operator to sell up to 5,000 seats of a direct flight it will operate in the upcoming Japanese ski season, Nikkei has learned.
From December 16 to March 28, 2020, Qantas will launch direct service between Sydney and Shin-Chitose Airport in the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. For Qantas, this marks the first direct flight to Hokkaido in 12 years.
Sapporo-based tourism company Kamori Kanko has agreed to buy 4,000 to 5,000 seats during the three-and-a-half month operating period.
Kamori, which runs hotels, ski slopes, golf courses and amusement parks, will use the Qantas seats to offer travel packages to lure Australians to Hokkaido. The island, best known for its Niseko ski resort, is famous for its powder snow and onsen hot springs, but is in competition with slopes on Japan's main island of Honshu, such as the Hakuba resort in Nagano Prefecture and the Geto Kogen resort in Iwate Prefecture.
Qantas will fly the route three times a week, offering over 10,000 seats during the period. The last time it offered a direct flight to Hokkaido was a route from Cairns to Shin-Chitose Airport that it halted in 2007.
Qantas had been in talks with Kamori over seat purchases since 2013. Negotiations stalled, but once the travel agent agreed to secure half the seats, the airline decided that it could reinstall the direct flight.
Australian visitors to Hokkaido accounted for 3% of all tourists in fiscal 2017, down from 6% in fiscal 2007.