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Virgin Australia, Qantas to compete for slots at Tokyo's Haneda airport

[HONG KONG]  Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd , which is conducting a wide-ranging review of its route network as part of a turnaround plan, said on Tuesday it would apply for one of two new slots at Tokyo's Haneda Airport allocated to Australian carriers.

The financially struggling carrier will compete against deep-pocketed rival Qantas Airways Ltd, which has lodged an application with Australia's International Air Services Commission for both of the slots which are available from March 2020.

Haneda airport, which is closer to the centre of Tokyo than Narita airport, has a limited number of lucrative slots. Qantas said it would use the slots to add a second daily Sydney-Haneda flight and to move its Melbourne-Narita flight to Haneda.

Virgin did not announce a specific route for the Haneda slot. The airline's Airbus SE A330 jets capable of flights from Australia to Japan are currently deployed to Hong Kong and on domestic Australian routes. Its even larger Boeing Co 777s fly from Australia to Los Angeles in partnership with Delta Air Lines.

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New Virgin CEO Paul Scurrah last month declined to rule out cutting flights to Hong Kong as part of the carrier's broader route and fleet review due to be completed by the end of the year.

Virgin on Tuesday said in a statement that it was focused on investing in the right routes that are commercially profitable. It said the introduction of Japan to its network would benefit its business, customers and the tourism industry.