Cheap flights to Melbourne return, Tigerair announces daily route
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Cheap flights to Melbourne return, Tigerair announces daily route

Low-cost airfares to Melbourne will again be available for Canberrans, after Tigerair confirmed it is reinstating its daily route between the two cities.

Speculation about the potential return of a budget air link between Canberra and Melbourne has been rife in the past month, after reports emerged that Chief Minister Andrew Barr had met with his Victorian counterpart Daniel Andrews to discuss the issue.

Tigerair Australia chief executive Rob Sharp, left, Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Capital Airport Group managing director Stephen Byron announce the return of?Tigerair flights between Melbourne and Canberra.

Tigerair Australia chief executive Rob Sharp, left, Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Capital Airport Group managing director Stephen Byron announce the return of?Tigerair flights between Melbourne and Canberra.Credit:File picture

Tigerair Australia chief executive Rob Sharp formally announced the re-establishment of the route on Monday, flanked by Mr Barr and Capital Airport Group managing director Stephen Byron at Canberra Airport.

Details on fares and schedules have not yet been released, although tickets are expected to go on sale later this week for flights starting on December 9.

Tigerair Australia will re-establish its Canberra to Melbourne route, giving Canberrans a cheap interstate option again.

Tigerair Australia will re-establish its Canberra to Melbourne route, giving Canberrans a cheap interstate option again.

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It has been five years since Tigerair last flew out of Canberra.

The low-cost airline flew to Melbourne for about two-and-a-half years, carrying roughly 140,000 passengers per year.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority's decision to ground Tigerair in August 2011 ended the Canberra-to-Melbourne route.

Virgin has since bought the airline, and it was rebranded in 2013.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the Tigerair flights would add $17 million to the local economy.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the Tigerair flights would add $17 million to the local economy. Credit:Jay Cronan

Negotiations to bring a low-cost airline back to Canberra have been underway for the past three years.

The talks stalled last year, but were given new life after Singapore Airlines announced its soon-to-begin international flights to Wellington and Singapore.

Impressive tourism numbers also played a key role, and it was put to the carriers that Canberra represented as big a domestic market as Tasmania and Adelaide.

In 2015, the ACT had 2.21 million domestic visitors, Tasmania had 2.44 million, and Adelaide had 2.34 million, numbers the airport used to lobby for Tigerair's return.

"When you highlight those numbers, you can make the pitch," Mr Byron said.

"Canberra also has an outbound market, because we're a community that does love to travel, and we're also the city that doesn't have a low-cost carrier at the airport."

Mr Barr believes the flights will inject $17 million into the local economy, and support 124 jobs.

"Let's be frank, it was very expensive to fly to Canberra," he said.

"When you look at the various destinations that are available out of Melbourne, they could fly a lot further, a lot cheaper on one of the low-cost carriers than they could to get to Canberra.

"So this opens up a whole new market segment for our city."

Mr Barr was hopeful that the announcement would "stimulate some more competition", particularly among other budget carriers.

The government is hopeful of establishing cheap domestic routes north, and Mr Byron suggested the Gold Coast as a possibility.

The 2011 grounding and revelations in 2014 of safety incidents have posed reputational damage to the airline, which it is still attempting to address.

Mr Barr said the airline's new owners had completely transformed Tigerair since the CASA grounding of 2011.

"It's fundamentally a new airline with new owners, with performance over the last three years that's best in class," he said.

Mr Sharp said there had been "overwhelming demand" for the cheap air link between the two cities.

He said the low fares would help grow the domestic air travel market in both cities.

"We are confident the new route will prove popular for our core market of budget and leisure travellers," he said.

The daily return service is expected to carry 2500 people a week between the two cities.

The ACT government has pushed hard to establish new flights interstate and abroad.

Singapore Airlines' direct flights to Wellington and Singapore are due to begin next month, and routes to Auckland and China are also the subject of early discussions.

The government is providing marketing support through VisitCanberra, but did not provide any direct grants to entice Tigerair.