Qantas’ First Sapporo Service Takes Flight

Qantas’ first seasonal flight to Sapporo took off yesterday. The thrice-weekly service flights which will run to the end of March 2020 marks a return to the island of Hokkaido for Qantas who last flew to Sapporo in 1997. Now, with a renewed focus on its Japanese services, Qantas has high hopes for the success of the route.

Qantas started seasonal services between Sydney and Sapporo yesterday. Photo: Qantas News Room.

The details of the Sapporo flights

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday morning, Qantas will push back an A330-200 for the 11 hour flight north to Sapporo’s Chitose Airport. The return flights to Sydney will depart Sapporo mid-evening on the same day, flying through the night to Sydney before arriving mid-morning the following day.

 Flight NoFrequencyTimes
Dep Sydney (SYD)QF39Mon, Wed, Sat09:30
Arr Sapporo (CTS)18:35
Dep Sapporo (CTS)QF40Mon, Wed, Sat20:05
Arr Sydney (SYD)09:05 (+1)

Qantas’ A330-200s are not the newest aircraft in the airline’s fleet but the plane remains popular with fliers because of its passenger-friendly configuration. Up front, the 28 business class passengers can enjoy the latest Qantas lie-flat Business Suite product in a 1-2-1 configuration.  In the main economy cabin, the 243 seats in a 2-4-2 configuration is often a preferred choice to the tighter 3-3-3 configuration seen in the airline’s newer 787-9 aircraft.

Australia – Japan services on the uptick again

Qantas was last seen in Sapporo in 1997. In addition to now discontinued services to Fukuoka and Nagoya, Qantas operated services to Sapporo between 1992 and 1997. Those were heady days for Qantas’ Japan services with more than 2.5 million seats available annually between the two countries and Qantas the dominant carrier.

However, that bubble eventually burst and services were dramatically pared back. For much of the intervening era, services between Australia and Japan were restricted to a single Qantas and Japan Airlines service between Sydney and Tokyo.

But in recent years, there has been a renaissance of sorts. Passenger numbers are climbing again and airlines are putting more capacity back onto routes between the two countries.

In the 1990s, Qantas 747s were a common sight at airports around Japan. Photo: Kentaro Iemoto via Wikimedia Commons.


In a statement provided to Simple Flying, Qantas International CEO, Tino La Spina said;

“Sapporo has been a very popular route with our leisure travellers. We’ve seen strong demand for the new service, particularly out of Australia, but have also doubled the industry demand from Sapporo since announcing in April this year.

“The number of Australians travelling to Japan has more than doubled over the past five years, with more than 500,000 Australians visiting Japan in the last 12 months alone.

“Japan is arguably the most in demand place in the world to visit in 2020 and our new flights will make it even more convenient to travel there from Australia.”

Qantas focuses on Japan again

In the 12 months to June 30, 2019, 1,474,961 passengers flew between Australia and Japan. There were 1,773,906 seats available over the same period. This figure is still short of the seat availability back in those buoyant mid-1990s but both passenger numbers and seat availability has been growing in recent years.

The Sapporo flights will be operated by A330-200s, a popular alternative to the Boeing 787-9s. Photo: Qantas News Room.

Qantas has certainly turned its attention back to Japan. It flies from Brisbane to Tokyo Narita, from Sydney to Tokyo Haneda, Osaka, and now Sapporo, and from Melbourne to Tokyo Narita (switching to Haneda in March 2020). Not so long ago it was down to a single daily service between Sydney and Tokyo Narita.

In addition, Qantas’ low-cost carrier, Jetstar, flies to both Osaka and Tokyo Narita from Cairns and Tokyo Narita from the Gold Coast.

The new Qantas flights between Sydney and Sapporo are seasonal and will run until March 28, 2020. But ticket sales have been healthy and in conjunction with yesterday’s inaugural departure to Sapporo, Qantas announced flights to Sapporo will be taking wing again on December 14, 2020, for the 2020/21 season.