Singapore Airlines has dumped its Canberra to Wellington service, but from May will commence daily flights between the national capital and the island state on an upgraded aircraft.
After 30 April, flights to Wellington will cease and the current four days a week Singapore service on the Boeing 777-200 will be replaced by daily flights on the more modern Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft.
Singapore Airlines’ ACT Manager Hugh Chevrant-Breton said that while the airline had brought the Wellington link to a very substantial level of passengers, the two cities were growing into slightly different paths and the airline wanted to offer a premium product between Canberra and the rest of its network.
He said this would not have been possible while maintaining the direct Wellington link, which was suited more to a narrow-bodied jet.
Singapore Airlines will now fly through Melbourne to Wellington.
The change allows Singapore to introduce the 264-seat Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft to the Canberra route and offer four travel classes – First (4), Business (48), Premium Economy (28) and Economy (184), including a full flatbed in First and Business.
Mr Chevrant-Breton said the airline had identified strong demand for first class and particularly premium economy.
Departure times from Canberra will remain at 11.15 pm, with flights arriving in Singapore at 5.30 am, but services from Singapore will depart at 10.30 for a day flight to Sydney where there will be 70-minute stop before returning to Singapore via Canberra. Flights will arrive in Sydney at 8.10 pm and depart at 9.20 pm, arriving in Canberra at 10.20 pm.
Canberra passengers will not have to clear Sydney Customs but wait in a transit area for the plane to be prepared for the return flight.
“We are going to connect even better to destinations in Europe and India, with a far shorter layover in Singapore, and a day flight from Singapore to Canberra, which was not available before,” Mr Chevrant-Breton said.
He said Singapore Airlines would be the only international airline offering a daily service out of Canberra offering four travel classes.
Canberra Airport Managing Director Stephen Byron said the new service would give Canberrans more choice of flight days and cabin class.
“For the first time, Canberrans travelling in first class and business class to Singapore will have access to a full flatbed and other features that take comfort to a new level,” he said.
“The 777-300 ER aircraft’s premium economy class will also suit the Canberra market very well.”
While Canberra Airport was disappointed direct flights to Wellington will be de-linked, Mr Byron said the foundations for a Trans-Tasman service between the two capital cities had been laid.
“We know now there is a proven opportunity for a service linking Canberra and New Zealand,” Mr Byron said.
This was echoed by ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr who said that while it was sad that the Wellington service would now run through Melbourne, the experience showed a direct link to New Zealand could work and the Government would continue to negotiate with alternative carriers.
“We will continue to develop and value our relationship with our friends in the New Zealand capital. Importantly, now that Singapore Airlines have proven a service across the Tasman from Canberra works, I will use this information to work with Wellington and Auckland to encourage other airlines to pick up where they left off with services from Canberra to New Zealand in a suitable narrow-body aircraft such as a B737 or A320,” he said.
Mr Barr said the new Singapore service would add 40,768 seats a year into the Canberra market further boosting international tourism.
“This move to a daily service in a newer and high-quality aircraft so soon after international flights began, demonstrates how successful the route between Canberra and Singapore has been. It will be a more frequent, more convenient and more comfortable option for travellers,” he said.
Mr Byron said that on 12 February Qatar Airways would also commence daily flights to Canberra.
“This will give Canberrans access to Singapore and Doha on a daily basis,” he said.
Mr Barr said daily services through the international hubs of Singapore through Singapore Airlines and Doha through Qatar Airways would make it easier than ever to visit Canberra.
Singapore Airlines said bookings could be made from tomorrow, Thursday 25 January. Customers already booked to travel to Wellington from 1 May onwards would be offered alternative travel arrangements.