Work continues on the new terminal at Canberra airport. Photo: Melissa Adams
Canberra Airport's new terminal will be ready for international flights by the middle of this year, but airport management and the ACT government are yet to secure regular, commercial overseas flights to and from the capital.
Minister for Economic Development Andrew Barr will head a trade mission to Singapore next month in an attempt to lay the groundwork for flights between Canberra and Singapore.
Last year Mr Barr established a taskforce of Canberra's business and tourism leaders to lobby for international flights in and out of Canberra, with their first goal to secure six return flights to New Zealand each week by the time the airport's western concourse was open this month.
Mr Barr said major airlines had positively received the taskforce's presentations and were actively considering them, and recent changes to the aviation market, including the partnership between Qantas and Emirates, may open up further opportunities for Canberra.
''This changing environment has, however, meant that airlines are considering new routes very carefully before committing aircraft,'' he said.
Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron said last year he believed international flights to the territory would be secured by the time the second phase of the airport's $420 million redevelopment was completed.
But a Canberra Airport spokeswoman said it was in continuing discussions with airlines on the prospect of introducing international services into Canberra and directed questions on how close they were to making a decision to the airlines.
''Obviously now that stage two of the terminal is completed, and the international facilities will be completed by the middle of this year, so the close proximity of the readiness of the international capability is likely to certainly sharpen the focus on the prospect of international flights into Canberra,'' she said.
ACT Labor made an election commitment to provide $1.8 million for marketing Canberra to international visitors as part of its push to bring international flights to the ACT.
Mr Barr said he will meet Singapore tourism agencies for preliminary talks next month, because as a major transport hub, direct flights to Singapore would benefit businesses exporting to Asia, help attract tourists to the capital and increase the number of international students studying in Canberra.
''The business and tourism sectors in particular have expressed support in pursuing this opportunity,'' he said.
Mr Barr said about 163,000 people visited the ACT from overseas each year, a significant portion of whom were international students from south-east Asia studying in Canberra.
''Direct access from Singapore would not only provide the opportunity to grow the value of the education market to the ACT , but also make it easier for visiting friends and relatives of students to access Canberra,'' he said.