November 22, 2013
CHIEF ASSEMBLY REPORTER FOR THE CANBERRA TIMES.
Singapore Airlines Photo: Quentin Jones
The ACT region has a large untapped market for direct flights between Canberra and Singapore, the ACT government has told Singapore’s national airline.
Deputy Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Canberra Airport Group chief Stephen Byron met senior Singapore Airlines executives in Singapore earlier this month as part of their ongoing attempts to lure international flights to the ACT.
Mr Barr and Mr Byron also met senior Singapore government minister Josephine Teo to discuss the issue. Singapore Airlines is government-owed. Mr Barr said research indicated there would be enough passenger demand to justify using planes which could carry more than 230 passengers.
“Our estimation of demand between Canberra and Singapore is for a plane with at least 30-odd business class seats and over 200 economy for a single flight a day,” he said.
Several thousand passengers per week catch domestic flights from Canberra Airport to board overseas-bound aircraft. A similar number of passengers coming to Australia from overseas are forced to change planes in other Australian cities.
“There’s about 7000 a week who come into and out of the ACT and more than half of them are hubbing through Singapore,” Mr Barr said.
An unknown number of Canberra passengers drive or catch buses or trains to Sydney or Melbourne to catch international flights.
Mr Barr said a full-service airline would probably be more suited to the Canberra-Singapore route than a discount carrier.
“A full service airline like Singapore is a better fit for the Canberra market [but Singapore Airlines] are not the only airline we’re talking to,” Mr Barr said.
“So we continue our engagement with Qantas and also with their alliance partner Emirates. So those negotiations continue.”
The ACT government has promised to make tourism marketing funds available for the first airline that starts regular international flights into and out of Canberra.
Mr Barr said he and Mr Byron had explained to the Singapore Airlines executives that the airport had a much larger catchment area than the ACT itself.
“It’s the closest airport for 2½ hours around the ACT,” he said.
“That doubled the catchment from the 400,000 inside the territory to closer to 800,000.
”So that changes the metrics on passenger volume and the like.”
Ron Bishop, a senior lecturer in aviation at Central Queensland University said the ACT region’s population and Canberra’s status as the capital should make the proposed Singapore route viable.
Mr Bishop said international business travellers flying directly into Canberra would be more likely to stay overnight in the capital than those who had transited through Sydney or other Australian cities.
“If it’s straight shot to Canberra that would bring a lot more people that need taxis, that need to go hotels” he said.
“Before they might have gone to Sydney, shoot over to Canberra to do their business and then go back to Sydney that night, or not stay in Canberra as long.”
Canberra Business Council president Michelle Melbourne, who accompanied Mr Barr on the Singapore leg of his trip, said direct international flights would boost export opportunities for the Canberra region, including winemakers and seafood businesses on the coast.
“You can imagine the backloads we can put on those planes which will help grow our economy here,” Ms Melbourne said.
The Sydney Morning Herald