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Pressure builds on Qantas

SINGAPORE Airlines is heaping more pressure on Qantas by announcing another increase in flights to Australian destinations, including Melbourne.

Months after it said it was singling out Australia as one of two markets it was targeting, Singapore Airlines unveiled plans to increase flights to Melbourne from three to four a day in July. The airline, which has a 10 per cent stake in Virgin Australia, will also boost flights to Adelaide from 10 to 12 a week.

The extra services will take the total number of weekly flights operated to Australia by Singapore Airlines and its subsidiary, SilkAir, to 121, up from 104 a year ago.

The latest increase in frequencies will give weight to Qantas' argument that the competition regulator should approve its planned alliance with Emirates.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is set to hand down its draft decision on Thursday, and analysts expect it to tentatively approve the deal.

It comes as Air Canada considers adding a second Australian destination - most likely Melbourne - in an attempt to boost the number of Australian tourists visiting Canada.


Speaking in Sydney, Air Canada's chief executive, Calin Rovinescu, said he was eager to do more to promote Canada as a tourist destination because ''we are just scratching the surface''.

Air Canada has boosted flights on the Sydney-Vancouver route - the longest in its network - from seven to 10 a week to try to take advantage of the busy Christmas travel period and tap the number of Australians eager to fly to North America to ski. The extra three services began on Sunday, for six weeks, and will be used as a test to gauge whether there is sufficient demand to repeat the additional services next year.

Mr Rovinescu said the airline was eyeing a second Australian destination but conceded that it would not be possible until it began taking delivery of the first of its long-haul Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft in 2015. Alternatively, it could launch another Australian route earlier by redeploying a Boeing 777 plane.

''Melbourne would be the logical next destination,'' he said. ''Australia remains a market to grow. We believe there are opportunities to add at least a second destination to Australia.''

Air Canada is taking a leaf out of Qantas' book by launching a new low-cost airline, which will begin with five planes before building up to as many as 50.