Jan 12, 2016

SingaporeAir could start Canberra contest with its flights

A shout out to Joe Aston on the Australian Financial R

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

Canberra's Roos sculpture might soon welcome international flights
Canberra’s Roos sculpture might soon welcome international flights

A shout out to Joe Aston on the Australian Financial Review for saying Singapore Airlines is about to announce flights to Wellington via Canberra.

His information is believed to be good. It better be!

Such an announcement has been anticipated for at least 20 years, and with a high visibility credible airline like Singapore Airlines taking the lead, it will be interesting to see who follows.

Canberra has an excellent airport and an increasingly apparent upside for leisure travel as well as government, public administration and academic travel account business on offer if not begging for attention.

The loathing Canberra travellers express for making connections in Sydney can be solved as far as Asia and Europe is concerned by Singapore’s Changi Airport.

But there will be more attention paid to the Canberra possibilities by other airlines once the Singapore links begin working with a reported four times weekly A330 service.

Subject to more hotel accommodation coming on line, Canberra is a very attractive gateway for the China market, either entering or departing, and would no doubt make a highly competitive offer to international carriers in terms of landing and handling charges compared to the take it or leave it prices levied at Sydney.

It offers ample slots and has no jet curfew. Back of clock operations are often favoured by the tour operators that would be significant customers for new leisure flights from China and other parts of Asia.

Qantas or Jetstar or Virgin Australia and its Tiger low cost franchise, and Air New Zealand, will no doubt revisit their options for single aisle or widebody  services across the Tasman from Canberra.

With its close, perhaps soon even closer, links with part owner Singapore Airlines, Virgin Australia could hardly fail to scope improved domestic connections at Canberra for incoming flights from Singapore.

Canberra by the mid 20s, when Sydney West opens, could become an important alternative to the monopolistic pricing power of Sydney Airport should its owners exercise their first right of refusal to build and operate the new Sydney basin airport at Badgerys Creek.

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19 thoughts on “SingaporeAir could start Canberra contest with its flights

  1. ghostwhowalksnz

    Cant be much possible trans tasman traffic out of Canberra as there hasnt been any routes to NZ, when even places like Hobart have supported flights for a while. Even now Air NZ flies to Maroochydore/Sunshine Coast direct from Auckland, ignoring the charms of Canberra.
    Cant imagine there would be interest in Wellington travellers in a Canberra stopover on the way to Singapore, when there would a large choice of options going via Sydney.
    Canberra- Singapore could work, but the trans tasman option seems implausible with some sort of golden handshake, as I know Wellington airports owner is desperate for ‘long haul’ routes- with a runway extension paid for by others.

  2. Ben Sandilands

    Agree. I thought a connection to an NZ A320 or VA 738 would have done that better.

  3. Dwyer

    Really curious to see what the timing of these flights will be like when they incorporate the tag flight to WLG.

    If it’s an overnight flight from SIN into CBR, then to WLG and back during the day before an afternoon flight back to SIN, they’d rule out most intra-Asia connections from SIN as they’d arrive too late; in essence making it only useful for outbound travellers to SIN, the sub-continent, or Europe.

    Any idea whether the CBR-WLG leg would be able to be incorporated into NZ & VA’s trans-Tasman program? Or would there be too many regulatory hurdles? I can’t imagine it being sustainable in a widebody, but even more so if they’re unable to codeshare with VA & NZ.

  4. ghostwhowalksnz

    A few years back Air NZ/Virgin were ‘excited by the prospects available’ which is airline speak for ‘no way jose’.
    Canberra doesnt have any reasonable business employment, especially those who would travel internationally such as head offices of major corporates. Wellington did develop in that area and did have head offices for NZ and until recently substantial manufacturing.
    Those who chose Canberra’s location were looking in the wrong place and should have chosen somewhere which was on the existing road/rail links between Melbourne and Sydney. That would have changed everything. The main other choice was Dalgety, which was even more remote, being south of Cooma.

    It seems they were careful about planning everything to be right, but the location. An affliction that effects an airport like Wellcamp/Brisbane West

  5. Ken Borough

    I see several issues that require close examination before everyone gets too excited

    *. Canberra’s weather in certain times of the year coukd create havoc with the schedule, as would Wellington’s.
    *. Wellington has a curfew that would impact and limit scheduling options
    *. Is Wellington long enough for A330 operations?
    *. What could the A330 carry CBR/SIN on a very hot day, bearing in mind its altitude?

  6. derrida derider

    So CBR has no business employment, ghostwhowalks? well ya coulda fooled me – every time I use that airport the ratio of guys in suits to backpackers is far higher than in any other airport I’ve been to. Government is a business, too, you know, and all that taxpayer money attracts private businessmen to visit it too. Average incomes in Canberra – a good proxy for propensity to travel, especially in the pointier end of the plane – are the highest of any city in Oz by some margin.

    Though of course you’re right that Canberra was built in the wrong spot. But interstate jealousies meant it had to be at least 200 miles from Melbourne or Sydney (that’s written into the constitution, BTW), it had to have its own water catchment and be out of the range of naval gunfire (in case of war between Commonwealth and states), and King O’Malley – the responsible minister – was determined that it have a bracing winter because “heat rots the white man’s brains”. So Dalgety or Canberra it was.

  7. wagga

    Wagga Wagga was also in the running, but was fortunately spared.

  8. patrick kilby


    Ken, I think Wellington’s runway is long enough for a short-ish hop. Those folk have to to change planes somewhere so why not on the same plane with a quick transit stop in Canberra. Like EK they also keep a plane busy through the day with a flight to Wellington. Virgin can sell the flight Canberra to Wellington the same way QF sells the EK flight so it will probably work for those who want a direct flight to Canberra or Wellington (to and from westerly ports) without a transit in Sydney or Auckland.

  9. Ken Borough


    While WLG may be long enough for a departure, is it long enough for an A330 landing, especially when the runway is wet? If may be OK but I’m unsure of A330 performance.

  10. Burke Stephens

    Its a very good link for the governments: Singapore, Canberra and Wellington, three capital cities linked. Govt travellers don’t have to go via Sydney or Melbourne to get to Canberra nor via Auckland or Christchurch to get to Wellington.

  11. George Glass

    Departures off Rwy 35 in Canberra are payload limited because of an immovable object;Mt. Majura.Wide body aircraft cannot carry a commercial load out of Canberra on long haul flights,especially when its hot.

  12. GeorgeD

    If Singapore can market it right to NZ’s lower north island (approximately 500k) as a one stop hop, then it would make sense for them. Particularly if they are being offered low or non-existent landing fees. I have no information on what SG are being charged, but there are reasons for them to get a discount.

    As ghost notes, WLG is pushing very hard for Wellington City Council (1/3 owner) money to fund a runway expansion of 300m, turning it into a 2100m runway. Proving that demand exists for a ‘flight to Singapore’ will work very well for them with a city council that is practically salivating over the prospect of being an “international city”.

    Of course, running a section to the east coast of Australia is very different to running a direct flight to Singapore (or anywhere else in Asia), and this should be obvious.

  13. GeorgeD

    ^More context.

    Wellington’s airport is buttressed on one side by harbour, and on the other by the deep and wild Cook Straight. The expansion proposed will go into the Straight, and cost $300-500m. Most of that is to be paid by the taxpayer.

    The idea is that if it is expanded then there will be direct flights from Wellington to Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Off a 2100m runway with severe weather constraints.

  14. caf

    There is always the option of tracking to the east of Eagle Hawk Hill.

  15. ghostwhowalksnz

    Derrida, people in suits might be politicians, civil servants and those businesses that are mendicants from them. Not the sort of customers who could sustain an international service.
    Again the problem is Canberra is too close to Sydney for its own international connections and not on the transport corridor between Sydney Melbourne and maybe even Adelaide to have built its own manufacturing base.
    Wellington had vehicle assembly, tyre manufacture and cigarette production and was head office for local and international companies. Manufacturing has decreased but they are now a centre for e-commerce and digital film making.
    Really its laughable that there is enough traffic to sustain even a narrow body service between Canberra and Wellington, again because Auckland and Sydney have far more international connections, and are closer, a ‘stopover’ in Canberra under those circumstances doesnt make any sense.
    Wellington is not just another state capital which might have government to government traffic, but I think trans tasman , the total business/government traffic is under 20%.
    As for the capabilities for the runway at Wellington, it used to have Qantas 747Sp and 767-300ER before the single aisles took over. Strong winds can be difficult but most pilots seem to manage ( nothing a bit of simulator time cant fix and being a widebody helps) and I think Sydney has more disruptions from its weather problems.

  16. ghostwhowalksnz

    Some interesting details about a new AsiaX flight from Auckland To KL via Gold Coast. They has a previous Christchurch service which they pulled out of- with consequences:
    “AirAsia X previously operated a four-times weekly service from Malaysia to Christchurch, but withdrew from the loss making route after a year in May 2012.
    The airline reimbursed Christchurch International Airport $400,000 in marketing costs for failing to maintain services for an agreed two year period.
    Tourism New Zealand also spent about $950,000 promoting the airline, while Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism spent $117,000 promoting Canterbury and other South Island regions in Malaysia and Singapore.

    I would suggest Canberra airport and ACT government will be paying handsomely for their ‘international status’ and no doubt Wellington will have to pay up as well.
    Money must grow on trees if international airlines need subsidies. Especially for non viable routes that arent likely to pick up.

  17. patrick kilby

    Ghost (as they say) we shall see!!!

  18. DrStoat

    @ patrick kilby

    “so why not on the same plane with a quick transit stop in Canberra”

    Except that Australia forces everybody off planes when transiting. The reason I don’t fly on a route anywhere that involves a transit stop in Australia.

  19. patrick kilby

    Stoat most places do that these days (Singapore, HK and Dubai to name three). In Canberra it is much less hassle than other ports because it is quite small and compact.

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