Singapore Airlines to begin Canberra international flights from September

The capital express route linking Canberra with Singapore and Wellington will take off from September.

Singapore Airlines is announcing on Wednesday the international flights, as the first carrier to fly directly to Canberra from overseas. 

The first flight will land in September, subject to regulatory approval, but tickets will go on sale from next week. It will be known as the Capital Express route.

The Canberra-Singapore leg will have the flight number SQ292 and the Wellington leg will be SQ291.

An economy ticket between Canberra and Singapore will cost $650 and between Canberra and Wellington will cost $469. Business class fares will start from $3166 and $1450 respectively.


As reported by Fairfax Media last week, Singapore chief executive Goh Choon Phong will meet Canberra Airport boss Stephen Byron and Chief Minister Andrew Barr to announce the plan.

Earlier, reports four A330 wide-bodied jets would visit Canberra and Wellington, New Zealand each week, bringing about 1000 seats a week into the airports. One source with knowledge of the situation said the time spent on the ground in Canberra could be as little as an hour, without the need to transfer from domestic to international terminals.

Direct international flights have been a long held ambition for the ACT government and will boost the local tourism sector and Canberra Airport business, which warned last month falling arrival numbers were bad for the economy.  

Until now, carriers have not taken up the chance to benefit from the ACT government's $1.1 million co-operative airline stimulus fund, designed to pay for international and domestic marketing campaigns to attract leisure passengers to Canberra. 

Despite substantial investment in the airport terminal and tourism campaigns in recent years, and Canberra residents being the highest paid in Australia, travellers have typically had to fly via Sydney or Melbourne.

Aviation experts say Singapore Airlines plans to begin flying to and from Canberra could lead more carriers to offer international flights, too. They also say Singapore Airlines would be the most "logical" airline to step into the Canberra market.

The government and Canberra Airport have pitched leisure travel airfares as an opportunity for carriers to match expected business class ticket sales associated with the federal government, Canberra region businesses and Parliament. 

Research in 2014 showed daily services from Singapore or New Zealand could generate $139 million in annual benefits for the Canberra region and more than 1000 jobs. Economic analysis of Canberra's tourism catchment had been given to airlines to show off the potential of the 900,000 people who live in the city and towns within two hours drive. 

Direct international flights have been the centre of the governments trade delegations to Asian capitals, including Singapore. Mr Barr has previously lobbied other carriers including Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Air New Zealand to consider Canberra.

Aviation industry expert Hans Mitterlechner said last week that if one airline were to break the ice, others might be keen to test the waters in Canberra. Shortlived flights to Fiji have previously departed from Canberra. 

"There's a 'me-too' effect in aviation," Mr Mitterlechner said. "If someone does it and the service is maintained for some time then the assumption would be for the others that this airline makes money. If that's the case, it's easy to prove the business case to a second and third airline to do this," he said.

Last month Mr Byron said falling passenger numbers each year since the airport's new terminal opened was bad for the ACT economy

In 2011 annual passenger arrivals totalled 3.17 million, falling to 2.80 million by 2014. In the same period passenger numbers at other Australian airports have grown at about 4 per cent annually.

With the same growth, Canberra would have more than 4 million arrivals for the year 2015.