Singapore Airlines has indefinitely suspended flights to and from Canberra, casting doubt on the capital's future as an international tourism destination.
The Canberra business community fears the decision to axe Singapore Airline's capital-city route after almost exactly four years will have a long-lasting impact on the economy even after the coronavirus pandemic.
ACT Labor leader Andrew Barr, who spent more than a decade trying to attract international airlines to the city, hoped an arrangement could be revived when travel restrictions ease and the airline business booms again.
But it's unlikely Singapore Airlines will resume its Canberra link, closing its office at the airport and also suspending flights to Wellington.
Canberra Business Chamber chief executive Graham Catt described Canberra's relationship with Singapore Airlines as a "game-changer" that connected Canberra to the the rest of the world.
"It does come as shock for Canberra, for the region and for business," Mr Catt said.
"This relationship with Singapore Airlines when it was introduced in 2016 really was a game-changer. The connection directly from Canberra to the rest of the world, to Asia, the access for businesses, and for markets.
"The symbolism of this - that we really were an international city and we really were internationally connected - was important."
Canberra Airport has been hit hard by changes to travel habits, shutting down operations on Saturdays after a dramatic drop in traveller numbers.
Canberra Airport head of aviation Michael Thomson said the aviation industry had been decimated by COVID-19.
"We've enjoyed a successful partnership with Singapore Airlines since our first flight on September 21, 2016, and remain hopeful that this service will resume once the demand for International travel returns," Mr Thomson said.
Singapore Airlines' South West Pacific Regional vice-president Philip Goh cited the impact of COVID-19 on the aviation industry as a factor in the decision.
"This decision is an extremely difficult one ...but it is necessary as we expect travel demand to remain stunted for a long period of time," Mr Goh said.
"We are very proud of all that we achieved in Canberra over the past three-and-a-half years, in particular to have been the first international airline to operate regularly scheduled services from Australia's capital."
"We will carefully review our plans going forward and make adjustments to our network to meet the changing demand patterns."
Mr Barr said the decision was not surprising given airlines have been among the hardest hit because of travel bans and border closures.
"Airlines are having to make extremely difficult choices to ensure their long-term survival as it will be many years before any normality returns to international travel," Mr Barr said.
"This suspension came as part of a broader announcement from Singapore Airlines that they are also laying off over 4000 people from their workforce.
"When the time is right we look forward to working with Canberra Airport and Singapore Airlines to return international flights to Canberra."
Canberra Region Tourism Leaders Forum chair Dr David Marshall said: "The challenge the aviation industry has is that they're going to have to rebuild. Canberra will have to rebuild," Dr Marshall said.