Fresh from landing daily flight services to Canberra from Singapore Airlines and Qatar Airways, Chief Minister Andrew Barr has turned his sights on renewing direct links to the booming tourism destination of Hobart.
Virgin Australia scrapped direct flights in between the capitals in 2013, in part due to limited demand, but Mr Barr feels the weather is changing.
He recently told the Legislative Assembly during Question Time that he had written to the Tasmanian Premier, Will Hodgman, suggesting they work together on re-establishing the direct Hobart link.
“We will continue to work with the tourism sector, particularly those in the transport sector, to make it cheaper and easier to get to Canberra. Members would be aware of the significant work that has been undertaken in partnership with Canberra Airport,” Mr Barr said.
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“It is terrific that from May we will have two international airlines flying daily into Canberra, arguably two of the best airlines in the world. We will continue our focus on low-cost domestic aviation and on working with Virgin and Qantas on improving in particular capital city services.
“I have written to the re-elected Tasmanian Premier seeking to work with him on re-establishing a Canberra-Hobart direct service and, with Tasmanian tourism booming in the same way that ACT tourism is booming, I think we have a positive case to put to the airlines in that regard.”
A spokesperson for the Chief Minister said the ACT and Tasmania were two of Australia’s fastest growing tourism regions.
“According to Tourism Research Australia data for the year ending September 2017, Tasmania and the ACT experienced growth in domestic overnight visitors of more than 12 per cent. Tasmania and the ACT experienced similar growth for international visitors of 18 per cent and 16 per cent respectively for the year ending December 2017. Canberra was also named as the third best global city in Lonely Planet’s 2018 ‘Best in Travel,” the spokesperson said.
The opportunity had been briefly raised with the Qantas Chairman Leigh Clifford and Qantas Domestic senior management but it was early days, with detailed analysis and further consultation with airlines to be conducted.
“The connection would service both cities while more efficiently providing opportunities for short breaks and easy business travel. It would remove the need to transit through the busy major airports of Melbourne and Sydney and deliver time savings that help visitors spend more time in each destination,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said the success of Tigerair’s entry into the Canberra market also demonstrated opportunity for new services, particularly those that offer a leisure-focused product.
“Both Canberra and Hobart offer a diverse range of experiences that will appeal to the communities of each city. Combined with business and government travel, the route should be able to operate effectively in each direction,” the spokesperson said.
Canberra Airport said it would love to see a Canberra to Hobart flight and was working collaboratively with the ACT Government, Hobart Airport and the airlines to work toward that outcome.
“So much of the travel to Tasmania is leisure travel which is the perfect fit for a low-cost carrier. We think it’s a route that would suit Jetstar. We would welcome them flying into Canberra Airport since they are not in this market yet,” an Airport spokesperson said.
But Qantas, Virgin and Tiger all said they did not have any plans for a connection with Hobart.
Qantas said that while it was always looking for new route opportunities, it did not have any current plans for Canberra-Hobart.
Virgin Australia said it is committed to its Canberra services between Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Adelaide and Perth.
“We regularly review our network for opportunities, however, we do not have any current plans to operate Canberra-Hobart services,” a spokesperson said.
Tigerair Australia said it continually reviewed its network and talked to many tourism and airport partners about potential future opportunities.
“However there is nothing further to announce at this time. Any future network developments will be announced in due course,” a spokesperson said.