Flying Melbourne to Tokyo Haneda with Virgin [We, did it]


This post is a first-hand guide of our trip from Melbourne to Tokyo Haneda with Virgin Airways.

It’s designed to help others plan out the trip, and know exactly what to expect from the journey, as well as including some handy hints which will make your trip even better.

OUR JAPAN CREDENTIALS

The Reeves Roamed for 25 days through Japan, taking notes as we went. Our route was based on our typically thorough research, though we also found some surprises along the way. We only write about places we’ve actually been, so you can be confident that the details are first-hand.

READ OUR COMPLETE JAPAN GUIDE
Ben Reeve
Post Author

Trip Statistics

Flights:

  • Melbourne to Cairns 0840 AEST – 1105 AEST
  • Cairns to Tokyo 1315 AEST – 2000 GMT +9

Flight time:

  • Flight 1: 3hrs 25min
  • Layover: 2hrs 10 min
  • Flight 2: 7hrs 45min

Cost:

  • $1,039 AUD per return ticket

Melbourne to Cairns (3hrs 25min)

We got the 0840 out of Melbourne to Cairns, a flight perfectly designed to meet up with the flight from Cairns to Tokyo.

It was an uneventful, internal flight. For those who have travelled with Virgin Airways in Australia, you’ll know what I mean. It took off and landed on time without any issues.

There was no Wi-Fi on the plane, just entertainment via the phone app (download it in advance), and food, as ever with Virgin, all needed paying for, with only tea, coffee and water free.

Interestingly, as we came in to land, we were advised via the PA exactly how to get to the international terminal, with the Tokyo flight specifically mentioned, this route from Melbourne through to Haneda seems like a commonly taken one.

🔥 HOT TIP: If you’re looking for cheap parking at Melbourne Airport, try Busy Beaver Parking. They are only 15 minutes from the airport, but it honestly feels closer than the official value car park due to how regularly the buses leave. And it only cost us $225 vs $300 if we’d gone for the official car parking.

busy beaver parking
Our bus which left only a couple of minutes after we arrived

Layover in Cairns (2 hrs 10min)

The landing at Cairns was interesting, it feels like arriving in a completely different country, with the turquoise waters and deep green mountainsides visible from the window, then the heat and humidity hitting when we left the plane.

The domestic terminal of Cairns airport felt vert modern, with lots of facilities and we wished we’d stopped here for food, as I’ll describe later on how poorly ranged the facilities are at the international airport.

When landing, the first job is to follow the signs to the exit, then it’s around a 300m walk on a covered walkway to get to the international terminal.

little girl walking through cairns airport
Grace confidently striding along the blue line between domestic and international terminals

It was completely empty at check in (though we had already checked in at Melbourne), so we headed upstairs to passport control and security. Make sure you scan one of the QR codes as you pass through here to fill in your immigration information for Japan, it will save a lot of time (you can also do this on Japan Web).

Passport control had a few of the automatic gates which scan your passport, which work really well.

Security did the usual checks, with laptops and liquids needing to come out, and then it was through an impressively stocked duty free to a not-so-impressive waiting area for international flights.

seating area with blue carpet and wooden table at cairns international airport
Main seating area at Cairns international

In Cairns’ defence, not many international flights leave from here, but given they know they are now one of the main thoroughfares through to the biggest city on earth, I was expecting to at least be able to get a hot meal in the hour we had to wait.

There were a total of six shops, only four of which were open:

  • World of Chocolate and Australian Produce Store (gifts)
  • Hudsons Coffee and Craft Cassowary (food, drinks and alcohol)
  • Relay (a magazine and snacks shop)
  • Australia Way (souvenirs)
  • Iced Tea (closed)
  • Dreamtime (souvenirs) (closed)

We did get excited about the promise of a lounge on the signs, foolishly thinking there was a Virgin lounge we could use it, but whatever it once was now closed off and not accessible.

wooden stools and tables at international departures cairns airport
Hudsons Coffee

We had a look at Hudsons Coffee for food, but the range was limited to a few sandwiches, hot sausage roll, quiche and a few salads, as well as coffees and drinks from the bar beside it. The one sandwich we did buy, a basic cheese and ham on white bread, cost a staggering $13.

The Relay magazine shop was fairly well stocked, with the kind of products you’d usually find in a servo – beef jerky, chips, drinks, chocolate etc.

There was lots of seating around, much of which had charging points.

🔥 HOT TIP: If you want to fill your water bottle, it doesn’t look initially like this is possible, however head up past the gates to the far end, and there is a water fountain with tap you can use.

blue carpet and pillar with water fountain at cairns airport
The water fountain to top up bottles

The lesson here is, if you’re on time, stop and have some food at the domestic terminal before heading across, then use the shops just to buy snacks for the plane, which will be cheaper than the in-flight purchases.

Cairns to Tokyo (7 hrs 45min)

This route has only being going for six months, and it feels it, as the plane was brand new (though still didn’t have Wi-Fi!).

Despite the long flight, there was again no free food available, however the food available for purchase was good, and not badly priced. I had a honey soy chicken with rice which cost $15 (much better than the $13 sandwich at the airport!) and Becca had a tasty chicken wrap on thick Lebanese bread.

Again, the flight was exactly what we’d always wish (uneventful and on time), and it also had a bonus of being only around a quarter full, meaning we could spread our little family out over two rows, and Grace could get some sleep after her 053o start this morning.

view from an aircraft at night of tokyo
Our first views of Tokyo as we came in to land

The view out of the window over the huge expanse of Tokyo was fantastic. At night, most cities kind of look the same, with ribboning roads unfurling, pockets of light contrasted by complete darkness, but Tokyo felt unique, on size alone.

Landing at Tokyo Haneda

carpeted corridor at haneda airport
Endless corridors through Tokyo Haneda

Tokyo Haneda is (like the city) huge).

We disembarked quickly, but then had a long walk along seemingly endless corridors to get to passport control.

Passport Control

Passport control was easy (especially if you’ve used Japan Web or scanned the QR visa in advance, so no paperwork is needed).

Customs

Our baggage came quickly, and we then had to scan our QR code that we had from our immigration forms at an electronic kiosk (we did this digitally via the Japan Web link), have our photo taken (only one of us had to do this, which was weird), and we were then clear to go through immigration.

We have to admit we got a bit confused at first, and tried to just stroll through the gates without using the kiosk, and were sent back. There were loads of helpful English-speaking attendants around, so we didn’t get confused for long.

Picking up a WiFi Unit

We had prebooked a Wi-Fi unit with Ninja Wi-Fi, as we’d heard that it was the cheapest way to get roaming data in Japan. They give us a unit the size of an iPhone, which we connected to with a single scan of a QR code on the screen, and we were online!

Getting a Train (and Cash)

The final thing to do before heading to the airport was to work out the train system.

The access to the internet made this easier (Google Maps is very detailed for the Tokyo subway), but the challenge was EVERYTHING needed paying for in cash.

Yep, that’s right, in the modern country, cash still seems to be kind, even at a major airport.

We debated getting one of the pre-paid cards, but instead went to a cash point and withdrew some Yen.

The machine for getting tickets is confusing. We tried searching for the station, but it didn’t come up. Thankfully there was another helpful attendant around, who showed us that you buy tickets by cost, not location. The station we needed had a 610Yen fee, so we just bought a 610Yen ticket for each of us (Grace was free) and headed off into the subway, which is directly below the airport, so very easy to access.

subway map on wall at tokyo airport
The subway map!

Finishing Up

I hope you’ve found this useful, if you have any more questions, drop me an email to ben@thesabbaticalguide.com and I’ll get back to you.

the reeves family picture

AUTHOR – BEN REEVE

Reeves Roam, is a first-hand travel blog. The Reeves have lived in the UK, South Africa and Australia and have travelled extensively in Europe and Southeast Asia.

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Thanks – Ben, Becca and Gracie

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