The A350 looks like being the chosen weapon for carriers seeking to carve up new routes to Australia

It’s a fair bet that within a year it will be dueling Airbus A350s for Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines at Canberra Airport given the latest moves by each carrier in bringing international flights to Australia’s capital.

Singapore Airlines last week announced a tightening of the scheduling for its  777-200s between Canberra-Singapore and Canberra-Wellington, the latter linking the AU and NZ capitals with a level of comfort and amenity those stuffed into other trans Tasman flights using 737s and A320s might well envy.

The changes due later this year will make it easier to use those flights to make a wider range of practicable connections at Singapore’s Changi airport. It was also clear from the guidance that Singapore Airline gave for the Canberra routes, which started almost a year ago, that total demand for seats is healthy, although the Wellington sector remains a bit underdone.

Qatar Airways confirmed its long standing interest in Canberra flights by putting on sale daily 777-300ER services to and from its Doha hub but via Sydney from next February.

The Sydney-Canberra tag flights reflect caution about the level of demand from Canberra as well as the current limitations on the number of flights Qatar Airways can make to Australia cities. If Canberra cooks for Qatar Airways and its lobbying for more Australian access also succeeds, it will seek changes to make its Doha flights non-stops in addition to current traffic rights.

The 777-300ER services will also become a second daily flight for the reportedly strong Sydney-Doha-and-beyond market, with the main service being on a QR A380. (Memo Qatar Airways, be brave, fly the big Airbus on the Canberra route once or twice a week, you’ll fill every seat. Promise!)

It is reasonable to predict that Singapore Airlines and Qatar Airways will each upgrade their Canberra airliners to Airbus A350s by the end of next year. Not only are their A350s the right size for the route, but the right size for their customers, compared to the crammed-until-the-passengers-cry treatment given economy class flyers on long range 787 services, whether full service or low fare in nature, on Australian and New Zealand routes.

SingaporeAir and Qatar Airways overlap when it comes to offering connections to Canberrans flying to  Europe, the UK, and of course the Middle East and Africa. The Singaporeans also have a huge secondary market for connections to China and much of eastern Asia.  If Canberra gets more hotel competition to match contests for international flights through its airport it will also get the benefit of the strong and proven ability of these two airlines to bring new sources of inbound tourism to Australia.

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