Singapore Airlines announces big changes to Canberra flights
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Singapore Airlines announces big changes to Canberra flights

Singapore Airlines has axed its Canberra to Wellington route, as the airline launches daily flights from the Australian capital to its Changi hub.

From May 1, Singapore Airlines will fly daily from Singapore to Canberra via Sydney, picking up passengers on the way.

DRK79J Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Super Jumbo on approach into London Heathrow Airport from Singapore str3-a380 SatDec9cover

DRK79J Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Super Jumbo on approach into London Heathrow Airport from Singapore str3-a380 SatDec9coverCredit:Chris Goodwin / Alamy Stock Photo

Singapore Airlines regional vice-president Philip Goh said the new route was a "creative" way to get an extra flight into Sydney Airport.

"With this change, Sydney will be serviced five times a day on a year-round basis, introducing for the first time as well a late night departure of Sydney to Singapore via Canberra," Mr Goh said.

"We are investing in these changes to further grow our footprint in Australia, which is a key market for Singapore Airlines' global network and we are committed to connecting Canberra to the world through our Singapore hub.

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"I think it's a creative solution to give us two very good solutions in the market - number one giving us a late night departure [out] of Sydney and providing Canberra with a daily service."

But the Canberra-Wellington dogleg has been cut 16 months after it was launched with much fanfare.

Figures from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics showed the occupancy rates of Canberra to Wellington flights were about 60 per cent, but a spokesman from the airline said these figures were higher in reality.

Mr Goh said the Canberra and Wellington services were growing well - but in opposite directions.

"We're very happy with the load factors actually but as I've said to really grow the services for each of the points we think it's better for them to have their separate growth paths and because also the traffic path on both flights are quite different, the [new] connection windows are tailored to serve the market well," Mr Goh said.

"For example most Canberra passengers are heading to Southeast Asia and by arriving at Singapore early in the morning it really opens a huge window of connections to all those markets, huge.

"Likewise for the Wellington market, heading to West Europe and the west part of Asia, that change in the timing and connection will work for them as well."

Singapore Airlines will instead fly to Wellington through Melbourne four times a week. It is the first time the airline has flown that route and will mean it operates six flights a day into Melbourne.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr welcomed the daily flight, but expressed his disappointment that Canberra had lost a direct service to Wellington.

He said the original service to New Zealand had proven a flight across the Tasman from Canberra worked and the ACT would continue to develop its relationship with Wellington.

"I will use this information to work with Wellington and Auckland encourage other airlines to pick up where they left off with services from Canberra to New Zealand in a suitable narrow body aircraft such as a B737 or A320," Mr Barr said.

Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron said the changes showed Singapore Airlines had "reinforced its commitment" to the capital, but also expressed disappointment the Wellington service had been dropped.

"The foundations for a Trans-Tasman service between the two capital cities has now been laid," Mr Byron said.

"We know now there is a proven opportunity for a service linking Canberra and New Zealand."

​Canberra Business Chamber chief executive Robyn Hendry said the previous timetable of four flights a week to Canberra had been "confusing" to the market.

"It was always problematic to some degree having four days a week, because you had to check which four days. This is a much simpler, most consistent offering," she said.

"Equally the daily flight from Singapore adds another string to our bow and our ability to pull from that region will be stronger."

The new Canberra to Singapore route will leave Singapore at 10.30am local time and arrive in Sydney at 9.20pm.

There will be a 70-minute technical stopover before the aircraft leaves Sydney, arriving in Canberra at 11.15pm.

Heading out of Australia, the aircraft will depart Sydney at 8.10pm, stop in Canberra for 70 minutes, depart, at 10.20 pm and arrive in Singapore about 5.15am local time.

The route restructure means the airline will swap to a Boeing 777-300ER, which will allow Canberrans to fly in first class and premium economy.

Of the 264 seats in the plane, four will be first class, 48 business class, 28 premium economy and 184 economy class.

Passengers travelling from Singapore to Canberra will not have to clear customs, immigration or quarantine in Sydney.

However travellers will have to get out of the aircraft, taking their belongings with them and passing through security.

The airline does not have domestic traffic rights, meaning people won't be using it to fly from Sydney to Canberra

The change comes as Middle Eastern carrier Qatar Airways prepares to start flying daily into Canberra in February.

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Unlike Singapore, which has an open skies agreement with Australia, Qatar Airways will fly via Sydney to circumvent the country's Air Services Agreement with Australia, which restricts it to 21 flight frequencies per week into Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth airports.

with Sherryn Groch