Canberrans will be able to fly directly to Singapore and Wellington from September, as Singapore Airlines begins international services four times each week.
The airline is the first carrier to fly directly to Canberra from overseas in more than a decade, after previous attempts to establish international routes were abandoned. The deal, welcomed by business and tourism groups, comes after years of lobbying by the ACT government and the creation of a $1.1 million co-operative marketing package.
A return economy ticket between Canberra and Singapore will cost from $650 and between Canberra and Wellington will cost from $469. Business class fares will start from $3166 and $1450 respectively.
Singapore Airlines chief executive Goh Choon Phong made the announcement with Canberra Airport chairman Terry Snow and Chief Minister Andrew Barr on Wednesday, with the airline set to partner with Virgin Australia for the Singapore flights.
Tickets will go on sale on January 25 and the first flights will land in September, subject to regulatory approval. The service, dubbed the Capital Express route, will fly a retro-fitted Boeing 777-200, which offers more business class seats and fewer economy fares.
The absence of a night time flight curfew was seen as a key attraction for Canberra Airport, with red-eye flights in both directions chosen to make them convenient for business and government travellers. Travel connected with federal Parliament and the public service is key to the deal's business case.
Depending on the success of the route, Singapore Airlines could boost the frequency, either seasonally or permanently at a later date. The government expects other airlines to continue consideration of Canberra but welcomed Singapore's "first mover advantage" in the market.
A new departure and arrival lounge will cost $25 million, paid for by Canberra Airport. It is part of a $32 million investment by the business, which said it would offer more if other airlines followed and offered international flights, too.
Construction of a new customs and arrivals area inside the Canberra terminal will begin within weeks. The cost of customs and immigration staff is paid for by taxpayers.
Mr Goh said the service reflected the close ties between the three countries and came as the result of a robust business case.
"We do bring in very competitive pricing and we do want to encourage traffic and to develop the market so pricing will reflect that we want to make it a success," he said.
"What we do whenever we introduce a new route is we recognise the need to develop it. We are here for the long term, we're not ones to do ad-hoc and then get out of the market. The ultimate aim is to grow our traffic and make it a success here."
Canberra Airport chairman Terry Snow said the announcement justified the airport's long-term vision and was good value for travellers.
"When you break new berths, it is always hard," he said.
"Singapore Airlines does offer everything we want. More than 100 locations, 35 countries and we are very, very adequately catered for.
Mr Barr welcomed the flights as a connection between the Canberra region and the world. He said the deal came after five visits to Singapore and meetings with all the major airlines.
"We put this proposition to a number of major airlines over the last few years.
"I am delighted Singapore Airlines are the first, they are the right airline for this market at this time but in future I have no doubt Canberra will continue to grow as a destination ... and more airlines will be attracted into this space," he said.
Groups including the Tourism and Transport Forum, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Australian Tourism Export Council welcomed the flights.
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