The brakes have been applied to the much-anticipated return of international flights to Canberra Airport.
Qatar Airways has cited “operational reasons” behind the two-month delay. The first flight had been scheduled for 1 October.
Head of Aviation at the airport Michael Thompson has been clear to stress this is just a postponement and not a cancellation.
“The delay of the once-daily service from Doha to Canberra via Melbourne is unfortunate but we look forward to their return on 1 December and the restart of international services to Canberra,” he said in a statement.
In the interim, passengers will have to take connecting flights from Canberra to Melbourne with Qantas and Virgin Australia.
When it resumes, the service will be a once-daily connection between Doha and Canberra with a short stopover in Melbourne.
It’s expected flights from Doha will arrive in Canberra at 12:50 am and depart Canberra for Doha at 2:30 pm via Melbourne.
Canberra passengers will collect their luggage and clear customs and immigration in Canberra.
The return of the flights was announced in July.
Canberra Airport CEO Stephen Byron said at the time that Qatar’s return to Canberra would give more than a million people who reside in the Canberra region direct access to Qatar Airways’ global network of more than 150 destinations.
“It also means that travellers from all over the world will have the opportunity to come and experience what Canberra and the surrounding region have to offer,” he said
Chief Minister Andrew Barr described the airline’s return as the strongest signal yet the Territory’s tourism industry was coming back. Qatar Airways first commenced operations in and out of Canberra in 2018.
Canberra Airport has been on a mission to get itself back on the international map following two-and-a-half years of COVID-19’s impacts on the industry.
Work is underway to entice Singapore Airlines back to Canberra, but no deal has been signed.
Earlier this year, Mr Barr led a week-long trade mission to Singapore to the island state where the topic of resuming flights was brought up at almost every meeting.
“Their major challenge, like most airlines, is recruiting and training the additional staff necessary to expand their operations,” Mr Barr said.
“This may take a little time.”
The Chief Minister flagged the return to near pre-pandemic levels of international travel across other markets would be needed before the flights would resume. He said the reception from the airline had been warm and positive.