Cathay Pacific Airways denies it will be Canberra's third international carrier, in spite of staff speculation
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Cathay Pacific Airways denies it will be Canberra's third international carrier, in spite of staff speculation

A Hong Kong airline has denied it will become Canberra's third international carrier, despite its executives meeting with the ACT's Chief Minister and internal speculation the Australian capital will become one of its next destinations.

A Cathay Pacific Airways staff forum has claimed Canberra and Cape Town will be the next destinations announced by the airline.

Cathay Pacific has hosed down chatter it was preparing to make Canberra one of its international destinations.

Cathay Pacific has hosed down chatter it was preparing to make Canberra one of its international destinations.

The forum, CX Secrets, also stated all Australian routes would be operated by A350s in 2018.

A spokesman for Chief Minister Andrew Barr revealed Mr Barr had met with senior executives of Cathay Pacific Freight on trade missions to Hong Kong to promote Canberra.

According to the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, Cathay Pacific Airways was Australia's fourth largest carrier of freight in the year to September 2017.

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It was Australia's seventh largest carrier of passengers in the same period.

But a spokesperson for the airline tried to hose down the chatter.

"We constantly monitor market demand in all regions and explore opportunities for route expansion. However, we currently have no plans in place to operate flights to Canberra," they said.

The claims come as Qatar Airways prepares to land in the capital next month.

The Middle Eastern airline will first fly into Canberra on February 12, tagging Canberra Airport onto its second-daily Doha-Sydney service.

It will open Canberra up to 150 cities around the world, with economy flights to London starting at $1340.

Mr Barr's spokesman said the government, through VisitCanberra, had been liaising with representatives of the airline over the potential for travel trade and media visits to promote the destination.

He said Labor's election commitment of a $770,000 fund to entice airlines to launch new or expanded flights in Canberra had been used for "cooperative marketing" with Tigerair and Singapore Airlines.

It had also been used to identify new routes.

"Work on new routes includes research into key international markets such as New Zealand, South East Asia, China and the USA as well as growing domestic capacity," the spokesman said.

"Routes of interest include Canberra-Auckland services with connectivity to US/Canada and the potential opportunities that exist in South East Asia and North Asia (China/Hong Kong) with full service and low cost carriers.

"With the demonstrated success of Tigerair's entry into the Canberra market it is hoped that the opportunity to establish new routes will be considered by other airlines such as Jetstar."

In 2018, the government will spruik Canberra at travel trade events such as the Australian Tourism Exchange and target feeder market countries including Malaysia, India and China, in addition to Singapore and New Zealand.

Katie Burgess is a reporter for the Canberra Times, covering ACT politics.