Canberra Airport was on the brink of closing its doors on Tuesdays when news came through last Friday that Queensland would reopen its air border with the ACT.
This would have meant the airport would have been shut for two and three-quarter days a week, adding to the closure from 6:00 pm Friday to 4:00 pm Sunday.
The decision not to go ahead with the extra day’s closure was made on the spot and now the airport has announced it will be back to a seven-day operation from Saturday, 3 October to meet increasing demand after the South Australia and Queensland reopenings.
The border reopenings offer a ray of hope for the airport, which has suffered a 98 per cent downturn in passengers and had warned of a total shutdown if flights could not be restored by October.
From Friday, there will be seven flights a week to Adelaide, 17 to Brisbane and seven to the Gold Coast, mostly on Qantas and some Virgin flights.
Services to Brisbane will double, and for the first time, Qantas will operate between Canberra and the Gold Coast with four flights a week.
Today (Tuesday) there were just two Sydney flights with 67 passengers arriving in Canberra, which was better than last Tuesday when 36 flew in and two weeks ago when just 24 people flew out of Canberra.
Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron said that after the airport being virtually cocooned it was pretty exciting to see those additional flights scheduled.
He said it meant businesses waking and Canberra people getting back to work, and there was already a buzz around the airport.
”Canberra people deserve a holiday, and a break from the awful year that 2020 has been but what’s important is that every person who flies and every person who books a ticket will be helping get our Canberra people back to work and back on shift,” Mr Byron said.
He said the cafe will be opening longer and its operators, who invested $4.5 million in four new food and drink outlets at the airport, were again hiring.
This would be replicated across all the industries servicing the airport.
Passengers can now book flights to South Australia, NSW, Queensland and the Northern Territory. The next destination on the airport’s radar is Tasmania.
”We would love for there to be direct services to Tasmania,” Mr Byron said.
He was also hopeful NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian would reopen the border with Victoria in coming weeks.
”There are a lot of people who haven’t seen family members for five or six months, and especially in Melbourne I think people will be keen to go and visit family and support them,” Mr Byron said.
He said the airport was in talks with other airlines besides Qantas and Virgin, including Rex, Canberra-based Corporate Air, and Alliance Airlines, and expected to launch new domestic destinations in the coming weeks.
”I think that’s what you’re going to see here in Canberra, the growth of airlines,” he said, singling out FlyPelican, which has kept flying to Newcastle and added flights to Ballina-Byron.
Over the next four weeks, Mr Byron hoped the airport could gradually increase the number of passengers to about 20 per cent of pre-COVID-19 numbers, helped along by school holidays.
The airport was also still working hard on a trans-Tasman air bubble with New Zealand.
”If you think about NZ it is no more dangerous than is Queensland, and the ACT is open to Queensland so the ACT would be well placed to be open to the whole of NZ, but that requires decisions to be made by government,” Mr Byron said.