Canberra airport gears up for start of direct international flights
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Canberra airport gears up for start of direct international flights

All passengers boarding international flights at Canberra will be treated to a business class-style departure lounge.

The lounge is being fitted out with European-styled furniture and desks, as the airport gears up for the start of direct international flights in September.

Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron with Richard Phillips, manager of aviation projects.

Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron with Richard Phillips, manager of aviation projects. Credit:Elesa Kurtz

To mark the milestone of 60 days to that touchdown, airport managing director Stephen Byron showed off the $18 million construction site on Thursday.

"We always set ourselves the ambition of building one of the best small airports in the world and obviously having the highest quality international terminal facilities is a real priority," he said.

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Stephen Byron escorts media on a guided tour of the construction site of the $18 million fitout for the new international terminal.

Stephen Byron escorts media on a guided tour of the construction site of the $18 million fitout for the new international terminal.Credit:Elesa Kurtz

"We've endeavoured to deliver what is a business class facility for all passengers in the departure lounge.

"We have designer furniture, we have wonderful natural light – the finish and the feel of that lounge is truly of the highest quality.

"That's critically important for us in Canberra and the region and also for our transit passengers coming from New Zealand, flying through Canberra, up to Singapore."

The lounge will also feature glow-in-the-dark ceiling panels.

Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron with manager of aviation projects, Richard Phillips  and head of aviation, Matt Brown.

Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron with manager of aviation projects, Richard Phillips and head of aviation, Matt Brown.Credit:Elesa Kurtz

The first Singapore Airlines Boeing 777 is due to land at 8.50am on Wednesday, September 21, making only a 75-minute stop before heading to Wellington.

The airline is scheduling four round trips a week initially, building to once a day as demand increases.

The international section is designed to handle simultaneous arrivals of a Singapore Airlines 777 and a smaller Boeing 737 from New Zealand or Bali.

"We've had very significant interest from other airlines that are now looking at us, be they full-service airlines to Asia or international low-cost airlines, they are now looking seriously at our national capital," Mr Byron said. The terminal's international facilities have enormous capability for growth.

"Singapore Airlines is starting with four services a week and the first priority is for that to evolve into a daily service," he said.

"We believe that will be successful within 12 to 18 months and it's during that time that we'll also see some other airlines come, whether it's flights possibly to Bali, possibly up to Asia with a low-cost carrier airline or perhaps with an airline over to Auckland.

"When [international terminals] start small, they start really small and then the next step is almost as big a barrier as the first step.

"For us, the next step is just so easy – all it is is saying yes to the next flight."

The airport expects to draw passengers from regional cities due to the quick transfer from domestic to international flights.

"One of the key things that underlines the construction of this facility is the integration of the international terminal with the domestic facilities," Mr Byron said.

"That makes for the best seamless transfer from a domestic connection to an international one of any airport in Australia.

"It's all in one terminal, it's a very short walk and we believe that will attract people from other parts of Australia to use this service."

The international section of Canberra airport marks the first time the Australian Border Force has built a fully integrated facility.

The force is the operational arm of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

"Two years ago Customs and Immigration merged to form the Australian Border Force and this is the first airport where they've rolled out a fully integrated facility," Mr Byron said.

"They're sharing search rooms and offices, not only between those agencies but also with the Department of Agriculture dealing with the quarantine issues."

The shell of the international section that is now being fitted out was constructed as part of the second wing of the terminal which opened three and a half years ago.

Ross Peake is a senior reporter for The Canberra Times