First Qatar Airways flight from Doha lands at Canberra Airport
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First Qatar Airways flight from Doha lands at Canberra Airport

After more than a year of anticipation, and a 50-minute delay, the inaugural flight of Qatar Airways touched down in Canberra on Monday morning.

A water cannon salute welcomed the Boeing B777 aircraft, marking the start of a new daily route from the capital to Doha via Sydney.

A Qatar Airways plane lands at Canberra international airport to launch the new daily service from Canberra to Doha

A Qatar Airways plane lands at Canberra international airport to launch the new daily service from Canberra to DohaCredit:karleen minney

At gate four, crowds gathered by the glass to toast the plane's arrival while a waiting media pack were served dates and Arabic coffee, a traditional Qatar "energy kick".

The plane, which seats 358, touched down at 9.25am after a flyover of the city. But by 2pm, it had returned to the sky to begin the almost 18-hour journey to Doha, which includes another brief stopover in Sydney.

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Inside the new Qsuite cabins.

Inside the new Qsuite cabins.Credit:karleen minney

Qatar Airways is now the second international carrier flying through the capital, after Singapore Airlines opened Canberra back up to the world in 2016.

Senior manager of Australasia for Qatar Airways Adam Radwanski said he was excited to take Canberra customers to 150 destinations across Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and was already working with government agencies to simplify their travel.

"This is the home of government in Australia, it's just been named among the top destinations in the world to visit by Lonely Planet so Canberra is an important destination for us," Mr Radwanski said.

Fares to Europe start at $1205 and he said Qatar's extensive network across the continent would make Greek Island hopping and other travel a lot easier for Canberrans.

The Qatar crew disembark the plane for a brief stopover in Canberra before the flight to Doha.

The Qatar crew disembark the plane for a brief stopover in Canberra before the flight to Doha.Credit:karleen minney

"It will give opportunities to explore destinations that otherwise they would struggle to get to with double, triple stops."

Seating 42 in business class and 316 in economy, the large belly of the Boeing B777 aircraft would also allow for more freight and export opportunities out of the ACT, Mr Radwanksi said.

Qsuite cabins are fully-adjustible and come equipped with the latest bells and whistles.

Qsuite cabins are fully-adjustible and come equipped with the latest bells and whistles.Credit:karleen minney

Passengers on board Monday's inaugural flight included Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker and the Australian Ambassador for Qatar, Dr Axel Wabenhorst.

Greeting them at the gate, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the new service would add more than 120,000 seats a year into the Canberra market, and formed part of the government's broader agenda to make it "easier and cheaper" to get to and from the capital.

Canberra Airport executive chairman Terry Snow said "an airline of this stature" will boost Canberra's reputation as a leading tourist destination.

Monday's near-brand new plane also came equipped with the airline's new business class Qsuite, featuring double beds and adjustable private cabins for up to four people.

"We are very excited to showcase this aircraft here in Canberra, it's really elevating our business class experience," Mr Radwanski said.

"It's something that no other airline has."

On a tour of the aircraft, media were shown around the spacious new cabins. Lit purple, each seat is fully adjustable, with a retractable privacy screen, amenities and entertainment.

Qsuite will soon become a permanent part of the Canberra route, Mr Radwanksi said, as other planes in the fleet were retro-fitted with the design.

While Singapore Airlines axed its direct service from Canberra to Wellington this year, the airline has also ramped up flights to Singapore in a new daily service beginning in May. Travellers can fly to 64 destinations through its Changi Airport hub.

Qatar Airlines' rapid expansion into Australia has been driven in part by a diplomatic crisis back home, which has seen Qatar cut off from trade with many of its Middle Eastern neighbours.

Qatar is now looking beyond its oil and gas industries into tourism and education. It announced the new Canberra route in November 2016.

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But, this year, the Qatar brand has become a familiar sight in Canberra skies in more ways than one.

On Thursday Balloon Aloft Canberra launched a new hot air balloon sponsored by the airline. The balloon is the largest passenger balloon to be flown in Canberra.

The Qatar Airways balloon, flown by Balloon Aloft Canberra, flies over Canberra.

The Qatar Airways balloon, flown by Balloon Aloft Canberra, flies over Canberra.Credit:Ken Butti

  • Flights from Doha will arrive in Canberra at 8.35am daily. There is a short stopover in Sydney before the aircraft lands in Canberra.
  • Flights departing Canberra for Doha will leave at 13.45 daily. There is also a short stopover in Sydney on this leg of the route.

Sherryn Groch is a reporter for The Canberra Times, with a special interest in education and social affairs