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Canberra Airport expects influx of overseas flights to start within six months

International flights have returned to Canberra Airport, with the launch of the first non-stop services to Fiji. But Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron believes the Fiji Airways service is just the beginning, calling the new Nadi flights a “building block” for things to come.

International flights have returned to Canberra Airport, with the launch of the first non-stop services to Fiji. But Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron believes the Fiji Airways service is just the beginning, calling the new Nadi flights a “building block” for things to come.

“The first building block is the most important and the hardest,” he said, sitting down with Karryon at Canberra Airport. 

“And so I think we’ve climbed that mountain and we’re so grateful to Fiji Airways for being our partner in that and giving us that product confidence – and it’s been matched by the demand.” 

Consequently, Fiji’s flag carrier has already confirmed it will add a third weekly service to the current two-times weekly schedule from 1 October 2023. 

“But it is the building block and I think we’ll see services within 12 months across the Tasman, certainly Auckland and possibly Wellington as well,” he said. 

Canberra Airport MD Stephen Byron
Canberra Airport MD Stephen Byron

“We would love four a week to Auckland and three a week to Wellington. And I think in parallel we may have another Pacific destination on top of that. 

“Three, what we might call shorter-range holiday destinations. And then we think that the big one will be Singapore Airlines – and I think they’ll be back within 12 months because if they’re not back within 12 months, Qantas will be back on the Singapore route because they’re getting aircraft that are ideally suited. 

“So Singapore Airlines will want to re-establish themselves here before then.”

Long-haul aspirations

Beyond New Zealand, the Pacific and East Asia, Byron said he sees Qatar Airways also returning to the nation’s capital in the near future.

“Qatar have had a bit of a setback for their ambitions, in terms of getting more flights and increasing the bilateral rights and more flights to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane,” he said. 

“So although we would strongly support Qatar getting that, it means that their option is to twin additional services with either Canberra or Adelaide. 

“And we’re certainly hopeful that they will really re-look at that as they boost their services back into Sydney and Melbourne – to pair a flight with Canberra. And again, I think that will happen in six months.”

Airlines Qatar
Qatar Airways’ Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.

Prior to COVID-19, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines both flew to the ACT, although SQ pulled out of its Singapore-Canberra-Wellington route in … 

The CBR boss said that pre-pandemic, flight loads on the Qatar service “were strong … commercially successful”, with Canberrans providing a “good boost to the seats, especially in business class”.  

But with Singapore Airlines, “we were very much more a part of the loads … 60 to 70 per cent of the aircraft”, he told Karryon.

“It went direct to Singapore out of here, but it came back Singapore-Sydney-Canberra, so it ended up being like a fifth service out of Sydney, and a late evening service.” 

So while it was a “really good service for Sydney people”, Byron said for Canberrans it had been great “to have dinner at home, pop out here after dinner and fly directly to Singapore and wake up there the next morning”.

And they may not have to wait too long to do that again.