3 May 2024

Canberra Airport destinations to be up, up and away with five-year growth plan

| Ian Bushnell
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Canberra Airport head of aviation Michael Thompson and CEO Stephen Byron: ambitious but realistic growth plan. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

Canberra Airport has unveiled an ambitious five-year Route Development Plan that could see Canberra travellers again flying direct to Doha, Singapore and New Zealand, as well as new destinations in China and Vietnam.

The Airport, which is now back to 90-95 per cent of pre-COVID capacity, plans to triple the number of carriers flying into and out of Canberra to 13 and the number of destinations to 22 by 2027-28.

That means six domestic and seven international carriers, including the return of Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines, and new airlines such as Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific and VietJet Air.

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By 2029-30, the Airport forecast that 3.5 million passengers a year would be moving through its terminal.

From June, airlines from Canberra Airport will be flying to 11 domestic destinations: Fiji Airways will be flying to Nadi, and Bartik Air will be flying to Bali, and eight airlines will be operating there.

Head of aviation Michael Thompson said Airport management would discuss its plan with airlines at the upcoming Australian Tourism Exchange in Melbourne and pitch it to meetings in Hong Kong at the end of May, New Zealand in June, and Singapore later this year.

Mr Thompson said Qatar had agreed that Canberra was its preferred next destination in Australia. It was expected to run a seven-day service tagging through Sydney or Melbourne in 2024-25, once Australian Government restrictions eased.

“We have reached contractual agreements with them, so we’re ready to go as soon as they have the opportunity,” he said.

Pelican will also resume its Coffs Harbour service, and the Airport expects the regional carrier to start flying to Avalon in Victoria.

In 2025-26, Singapore Airlines is tipped to return after rebuilding capacity and sourcing aircraft, and a service to Auckland is anticipated, with either Qantas using its new A220 or Air New Zealand.

Domestically, the Airport is looking at Townsville, based on its strong Defence connections with the national capital and Cairns and Launceston, based on those strong tourism markets. Qantas and Jetstar are in the frame for North Queensland routes and Pelican for Tasmania.

Hong Kong is on the 2026-27 horizon, while next year, the Airport is hoping for flights from Canberra to Vietnam, an increasingly popular destination for Australian travellers.

ACT Brumbies players Tom Hooper, Allan Alaalatoa, Brumbies CEO Phil Thomson, Canberra Airport Group CEO Stephen Byron, Harry Vella and Head Coach Stephen Larkham: “This is a sporting team with an international footprint in all the right spots. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

Mr Thompson said there was high demand for Chinese movements into and out of Canberra driven by international students.

He said a Hong Kong link would probably start as a seasonal route over December, January and February, taking students home to China, bringing people into Canberra over the holiday period and then students returning for their studies.

The Airport would be talking to Cathay Pacific, Shenzhen Airlines, which is a subsidiary of Air China, and China Southern.

He said Cathay would be close to being full in its slots by December and would be looking for a regional board such as Canberra.

The timetable for these routes was fluid and could happen sooner rather than later, but Mr Thompson said carriers across the world had challenges sourcing aircraft, pilots and staff.

He said the Airport’s goals were ambitious but realistic.

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On the domestic front, Mr Thompson said there was scope for Rex, which is currently only flying to Melbourne, to extend its service to the Gold Coast or Brisbane.

He expected Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin to continue increasing their offering.

Airport CEO Stephen Byron also announced a new sponsorship with the Brumbies for the rest of the season and for 2025, saying it was the right time to step up and support Canberra’s Super Rugby team.

“It’s no secret that you want to leverage sponsorship not only to support the community but also to leverage the opportunity, and this is a sporting team with an international footprint in all the right spots.”

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Gregg Heldon8:50 pm 06 May 24

When the price of an overseas flight can be as much as $600 (european flights last year on economy) more flying from Canberra than it is from Sydney, EACH person, I’ll pay for petrol and parking at Sydney thank you very much.

So, for the slow people at the back, the reason CBR can’t get flights is because of its ridiculously high landing fees. It isn’t the fault of airlines, it is the greedy airport owners. They feed you this bs every few years to keep you hoping, but in reality you won’t get much more than you have now. Wake up!

Capital Retro5:19 pm 03 May 24

“He expected Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin to continue increasing their offering.”

But not to reduce their fares.

Capital Retro5:17 pm 03 May 24

“He expected Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin to continue increasing their offering.”

But not to reduce their fares.

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