There are now two international airlines servicing Canberra with the arrival today of the first Qatar Airways flight to the national capital.
The Boeing B777-300 from Doha touched down at 9:25 am, with passengers treated to a water cannon salute soon after landing.
VIPs on the flight, the start of a daily service between Canberra and Doha, included CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker, and the Australian Ambassador to Qatar, Dr Axel Wabenhorst.
Qatar Airways joins Singapore Airlines, which recently announced that it would drop its direct Wellington link but introduce daily flights to Singapore from 1 May, in servicing Canberra.
After a fly-over of Canberra city, the flight was greeted by Canberra Airport’s Executive Chairman Terry Snow and Managing Director Stephen Byron, along with the ACT Chief Minister, Andrew Barr.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the arrival of Qatar Airways was a significant boost to capacity into the city and the Territory’s international tourism efforts.
“A daily flight with an aircraft of more than 300 seats is going to add more than 120,000 seats [a year] into the Canberra market,” Mr Barr said. “From an outbound perspective, it gives Canberrans the opportunity to travel through Doha to numerous destinations. The European ones will be particularly popular but Qatar Airways’ network connects to hundreds of cities around the world in a quality product.”
Mr Barr said the new Qatar service provided confidence that this model could work for airlines. Although Singapore had axed its direct Wellington link, Mr Barr said the Government had not given up on the route.
“We’ve got a service that goes effectively west to Doha, we’ve got a service that goes north-west to Singapore. The missing link in Canberra’s international aviation connection is heading east to New Zealand and on to North and South America. That’s where we’ll focus our international transport efforts,” he said.
Mr Akbar Al Baker said Qatar Airways was delighted to be expanding its reach in Australia, by launching its fifth gateway.
“In 2016, we launched flights to Sydney and Adelaide, clearly demonstrating our commitment to the people of Australia. We are extremely happy to be offering our loyal Australian passengers the chance to explore the newest and most exciting destinations we have added to our global network in the past year, including many European cities such as Dublin, Kyiv, Prague and St Petersburg. We are also confident that Australian travellers will be as excited as we are about our many upcoming new destinations set to launch this year, including Cardiff, United Kingdom; Malaga, Spain and Mykonos, Greece.”
Qatar said the inaugural flight’s Boeing B777 was retrofitted with the airline’s Qsuite, which includes the industry’s first fully lie-flat double bed, a revolutionary quad design offering passengers a private and fully adaptable space, in addition to movable TV monitors and privacy dividers, which transform the space into an area perfect for socialising.
Flights from Doha will arrive in Canberra at 8:35 am daily, after a short stopover in Sydney. Flights departing Canberra for Doha will leave at 1:45 pm daily. There is also a short stopover in Sydney on this leg of the route.
Mr Snow said the airport appreciated Qatar Airways’ strong support for the nation’s capital. “An airline of this stature will further boost Canberra’s reputation as a leading tourist destination, on the back of record numbers of international visitors coming in 2017, and Lonely Planet nominating the city a top three destination for 2018,” he said.
Canberra Airport said the arrival of Qatar Airways gave Canberrans access to a global network of more than 150 destinations, of which more than 40 are in Europe.
The Boeing B777-300 aircraft carries 358 seats, including 42 seats in business class and 316 seats in economy, with business coming with fully-flat beds.
Canberra is Qatar’s fifth Australian destination.