Jetstar's new non-stop flights from Melbourne to Tokyo take off

Jetstar has started flying between Melbourne and Tokyo after a five-year absence of a non-stop connection between the cities since Qantas pulled the plug in 2008.

The first Jetstar Melbourne-Tokyo direct flight took off on Tuesday night, kicking off the four-times-a-week service on wide-body Airbus A330 aircraft that includes business class. The flight takes 10.5 hours.

The new international flights will tie in with Jetstar Japan which was launched in May 2012, and has since become the largest domestic carrier operating out of Narita Airport, recently notching up three million passengers.

Jetstar Australia and New Zealand chief executive officer, David Hall said passengers on the new flights would have convenient connections with Jetstar Japan to nine other cities, including Osaka, Fukuoka and Sapporo.

The new flights are also expected to bolster the Victorian economy with Jetstar predicting that they will bring 50,000 Japanese tourists to the city each year.

Japan was Australia's biggest visitor market in 1997 when Australian Bureau of Statistics' figures show that 813,900 Japanese came here on holidays. But numbers dropped away because of a combination of events, including the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and other influenzas between 2002 and 2009, and the earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

The weak Japanese economy and strong Australian dollar also contributed to the decline along with the reduction in aviation capacity with Ansett and All Nippon Airways exiting the market, and Japan Airlines and Qantas both cutting routing.

But recently Tourism Australia has completed two campaigns in an effort to build on the 353,900 arrivals recorded for 2012.

In one of the campaigns, a Japanese celebrity television travel show "Tabi Salad" filmed around the country for a 90-minute episode and in the other Tourism Australia partnered with Japanese women's magazine CREA to create a 36-page feature about our nature, food and wine here.


"There are more campaigns in the pipeline in the next few months," a Tourism Australia spokesperson said.

To enable the new international flights, Jetstar will suspend its three-times-weekly service between the Gold Coast and Osaka from May 8.

As an introductory offer, the airline has $499 one-way economy fares between Melbourne and Tokyo.

The writer travelled to Tokyo courtesy of Jetstar.