The first scheduled international passenger service to Canberra in more than a decade has landed.
Canberra Airport welcomed the arrival of Singapore Airlines’ (SIA) inaugural service with an Airservices Aviation Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) monitor cross on Wednesday morning.
Flight SQ291, operated by Boeing 777-200 9V-SRP, touched down in the nation’s capital a little after 0810, after a seven-hour journey from Singapore, marking Canberra’s first scheduled international service since the short-lived Air Pacific (now Fiji Airways) flights to Nadi in 2004.
“They say some of the best things in life take the longest, and this has certainly been 18 and a half years of challenges and hard work, but also a great deal of fun,” Canberra Airport chief executive Stephen Byron told media ahead of SQ291’s arrival.
“We’ve got a wonderful facility and when you’ve got a world class [piece of] infrastructure in a world class city, what better way to service it than with one of the greatest airlines in the world with Singapore Airlines.”
Journalist Jesse Dorsett posted a video of the aircraft’s arrival on Twitter:
— Jesse Dorsett (@jessedorsett) September 20, 2016
After about two hours on the ground, the flight continued onto New Zealand just after 1000 and arrived in Wellington at 1500. It is the first scheduled passenger service linking Canberra and Wellington.
SIA executive vice president for commercial Mak Swee Wah said the new service was a “reinforcement of our commitment to Australia and the entire South West Pacific region”.
“The opportunities that flights SQ291 and SQ292 will provide government, leisure and corporate travellers alike is exciting,” Mak said in a statement.
“We are proud to be adding Canberra and Wellington to our network, and today as we begin our operation we look forward to making the ‘Capital Express’ a success.”
The return flight SQ292 from Wellington was in turn scheduled to arrive back in Canberra at 2205, with a departure for Singapore an hour and 25 minutes later at 2330.
“The where to next is Wellington,” Byron joked when asked about future international services for Canberra Airport.
“We always wanted two cities, so the ‘where to next’ was always going to be Wellington, but Singapore Airlines has delivered the two things we wanted in one go.”
The Singapore-Canberra-Wellington rotation, which the airline dubs the “Capital Express”, is due to operate four times a week with 777-200s configured with 38 angled lie-flat business class and 228 economy class seats.
“The bookings are strong for people coming from New Zealand to Canberra,” Byron said.
“And it is really part of that ingenuity that Singapore and Singapore Airlines have brought to this, to make this stack up by bringing two routes together to make it one really successful route.”
Canberra is SIA’s sixth destination in Australia alongside Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. The airline group’s regional wing Silkair also serves Cairns and Darwin with narrowbody equipment.