Qatar Airways plans Canberra launch in 2017/18

The first Airbus A350-900 commercial service to Australia prepares to touch down at Adelaide Airport. (Seth Jaworski)
A file image of a Qatar Airways Airbus A350-900 landing Adelaide Airport. (Seth Jaworski)

Canberra has been named as one of eight new destinations Qatar Airways will add to its fast-growing network.

The announcement was made during a media event in Casablanca on Monday (local time).

Qatar indicated flights to Canberra would begin some time in the 2017/18 timeframe, without providing any further details, such as frequencies and operating aircraft type.

The Australian capital would be Qatar’s fifth destination in this country.

It would also be Canberra’s second international service, following Singapore Airlines’ Capital Express Singapore-Canberra-Wellington flights that started in September.

An Airservices ARFF monitor cross welcomes Singapore Airlines' inaugural flight to Canberra. (Gerard Frawley)
An Airservices ARFF monitor cross welcomes Singapore Airlines’ inaugural flight to Canberra. (Gerard Frawley)

Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron said he expected Qatar to operate nonstop to Canberra from its Doha hub when flights do eventually commence.

“Our view is that it is most likely, in fact very likely, the service will be in the later evening just as the Singapore Airlines flight is and again that is taking advantage of Canberra Airport’s curfew free status, which has been critical to the development of our international flight operations,” Byron told reporters at Canberra Airport on Tuesday, according to a video of the media conference posted on the airport’s Facebook page.

“It’s a great day for Canberra, a great day for tourism into the city and what a fantastic follow on from the Singapore Airlines first flight which was just 69 days ago.”

Byron said start of SIA’s flights and the Qatar announcement to serve the city would help attract more services.

Further, he said discussions were ongoing with a number of other Australian and overseas airlines about international flights, which could lead to a new service starting before Qatar begins its operations to Canberra.

“We always thought there would be a race to be first to be second if you like,” Byron said.

“We’ve been talking to the other Middle Eastern hub carriers, to the other Asian hub carriers and also to the Chinese airlines about direct flights.

“It is possible that an airline could announce a service to a different route that might commence before that time.”

Watch the full video of Stephen Byron’s statement below from Canberra Airport’s Facebook page:

Currently, Qatar has utilised the 21 flights a week available under the current bilateral air services agreement to Australia’s four major international getaways with its daily flights to Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

Its less than daily service to Adelaide, as well as the Canberra flight should it eventuate, would not be included in the cap given Qatari airlines have unrestricted capacity to fly between Qatar and Australian regional centres under the bilateral.

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker said Canberra would join Dublin (Ireland), Las Vegas (US), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Santiago (Chile), Medan (Indonesia) and Tabuk and Yanbu in Saudi Arabia in 2017/18.

“With today’s network announcement, we will be able to connect more people to more places than any other Gulf airline, and we will ensure our passengers will delight in the journey,” Al Baker said in a statement.

Figures from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) show Qatar Airways carried 35,024 passengers into Australia in August 2016, with an average load factor of 85.8 per cent. Meanwhile, there were 38,176 passengers on Qatar’s flights out of Australia and an average load factor of 93.6 per cent.

The eight new destinations are on top of seven previously announced cities due to receive flights from Qatar in the period ahead.

Qatar said its nonstop Doha-Auckland service, which was first mooted in January 2016, would begin on February 5 2017. The airline is also mounting new service to Sarajevo (Bosnia), Skopje (Macedonia), Libreville (Gabon), Nice (France), Chiang Mai (Thailand) and Douala (Cameroon).

Comments

  1. Grant says

    CBR is classed as a regional airport even though it serves the national capital.

    CBR-AKL would be logical to give connections to the Pacific and USA.

    I suspect the next international airline to announce a service to CBR will be Chinese.

  2. Michael says

    I heard from a source at Canberra Airport that Emirates are looking to start services next year too.

  3. Baxter says

    This is great, i feel that the government should allow airlines such as Singapore and Qatar Airways more rights in servicing SYD, MEL, BNE, and PER as a reward for entering into regional airports, something Australian airports are terrible at exploring. How is it with a whole domestic feed of passengers Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar and Tiger are not able to sustain regional international services. Such as regional services from the East to New Zealand and other Pacific nations or services from the North and West into Asia?

    Good work Qatar, this is why your airline is great keep developing into voids in Australia.

  4. Anil Kattula says

    Qatar are the second airline behind Singapore to realise that the Australian market is up for grabs! Qantas is not interested in serving Australian ports internationally except Sydney. First Adelaide and now Canberra are there to be plundered by foreign raiders. Give it a few years when Alan Joyce finally goes and they will be kicking themselves for allowing this to happen!

  5. JR says

    Completely agree with Anil, Qantas isn’t even interested in serving Europe from places like Brisbane let alone regional cities like Canberra. Good on Qatar for having the will to capitalise on Qantas’ arrogance and Sydney-centric approach. One day Qantas will wake up and realise you can’t expect people to hub through Sydney at the start/end of a 24 hour flight to Europe. Instead of working with their OneWorld alliance partner Qatar, Qantas would rather hand over their frequent flyers to Emirates instead.

  6. Craigy says

    Lets get one thing straight. Qantas is a an end of line carrier. Unlike Qatar which can hub. Just like Emirates, Etihad, Singapore, Thai and Cathay. The point is Qantas chooses routes where they can fill aircraft. Canberra is not an option because of the hub system ie people travelling to many destinations but insufficient to fill an aircraft from OZ.

  7. Jason says

    Considering Canberra’s runway lengthand altitude, I wonder if anA350 can do CBR-DOH in a single hop? Might be worth looking at AA?

  8. Paul says

    Agree 100% with Craigy, can we stop this endless Qantas bashing re their network!!

    They are an end of line carrier, and as such are not flying to their hub with onward connecting traffic!

    Why do SIA fly 4-5 times a day Sydney to Singapore, and Qantas twice, because SIA can offer onward connections into their large network!

    Re Qatar and Canberra, they cannot expand into the major cities at present, so they choose “regional” destinations!

    Re Jasons point, due to their not so good loads from Adelaide to Doha, maybe the flight will route Canberra Adelaide Doha?

  9. Luke says

    In regards to the end of a line comment, that’s just a excuse. I don’t see why Qantas is unable to fill at least one aircraft from Canberra internationally to a New Zealand city with transit passengers from the West. They all ready service Perth with a 737 why can’t they make Auckland a viable route

  10. Gary says

    Paul,

    Last figures I saw were that Qatar Airways were equal pegging with Emirates which were averaging into the high 70s.

    Luke,

    Why would QF fill an aircraft with transit passengers from the west when they are already flying Per to NZ non-stop (albeit seasonally)?

  11. Nick says

    Let’s be blunt about this. Not only are QR are a hub carrier, they are in a better position to be able to afford to do this, ie. run this at a loss.

    I can’t imagine the CBR-DOH market warrants the service, so it becomes a function of how much traffic they can flow to and from their growing network. At the same time, I’d question if this might cannibalise their MEL and SYD services.

    To me, this looks like a message to the Australia Gov’t to open up the bilateral to give them more access to the bigger gateways.

  12. eh says

    End of line carriers can make thinner routes viable provided they are equipped to do so…. but it takes a very specific type of aircraft to do it…. and considerable investment in promoting hub-busting – which Qantas and other local carriers are not particularly interested in.

    I think it is this point that many of the other contributors are scathing about with respect to local carriers.

    The Middle of Market (MoM) aircraft that Boeing is considering (the long-awaited single aisle B757 replacement), along with aircraft like the new A321 NEO LR are the key to making the running on long thin passenger routes routes with low cargo potential. Having said that, they probably still need longer range again (8000+) to really help local carriers.

    Intercontinental aircraft in the 175-225 seat class, and with limited cargo space, are no doubt a niche. Boeing probably tripped over an emerging market partly by accident with the B752 and owned the market by virtue of a lack of alternatives. The Airbus A310 almost worked its way into the category in pure seating numbers, but is eliminated as a wide-body with commensurate cargo capacity (much like the Boeing B762ER).

    Without local end-of-line carriers equipping specifically for long-thin intercontinental routes, hub based inter-line carriers (Emirates, Singapore etc) will always end up making the running at Australian ports, and particularly the regional ports. This without a doubt is regretful, but local carriers are somewhat (but not entirely) hamstrung… without both re-equipping and being prepared to spread resources and traffic away from the capital city hubs.

    The foreign hub carriers admittedly have a hugely unfortunate geographic advantage – they are physically small countries, and typically have one major home-country airport – making their hub operations very easy. They sit squarely in the middle geography between western and developed nations in every direction, helping to make enforced hub stop-overs seem convenient to the passenger as much as they are for the airline in collating onwards passengers.

  13. Anil Kattula says

    For many years Qantas hubbed in Singapore with flights from all over Australia including Townsville, cairns, Adelaide and Darwin. Back then smallest plane they had was 767-200. Why not reopen the hub in Singapore. Everybody but Qantas management would prefer Singapore over Dubai as stopover, Hub in Singapore and use 787 to serve Europe and Asia. Hey they could even hub in both places giving customers options! Surely Qantas could put a 737 on Canberra and Adelaide to new Zealand flights. Qantas needs to put it’s passengers first!

  14. Grant says

    The A350-900 can do CBR-DOH in a single hop. At MTOW it needs about 9,000 ft of runway and CBR 17/35 is 10,771 ft. The hop is about 1,200 nm under max range so may not need to be max weight. The 787-8 could do it in a single hop too.

    If Qatar is allowed to serve regional centres without restriction, DOH-CNS and DOH-OOL could be future possibilities and within the capability of the 787-8.

  15. says

    Dont want this , Washington was only a few hundred thousand just after 1948 , but when it became a hub grew to a Million in less than 16 years , we need Canberra small , with only 400,000 between us and struggle town were good , any more and this city will feel like Melbourne or Sydney .

  16. Jez says

    I hope they intend to stay, this admittedly by a canberran is a very skinny route, i still am exited and will use the service as it should be realized that canberrans hate going through sydney!

    Great move by qatar and i look forward to more international services!

  17. Fleming says

    Its not that we are hating on Qantas its just ironic, that we have policies in place that prevent foreign airlines flying over their bilateral caps in SYD, MEL. BNE, and PER. thats all nice to protect Australian jobs and stuff the only problem with this in the West is that QANTAS, basically doesn’t fly any International routes except Singapore, and barely what you would even call seasonal to Auckland. So why would we want to protect a airline that doesn’t even try to make services from anywhere other then domestic or international ex Syd and MEL. And don’t start with the Perth to London issue. Again Qantas wants to take all and make perth invest in their terminal being provided international services when we have a perfectly fine international terminal. Why should we risk miilions for a flaky airline. bring on the foreign airlines

  18. Adrian P says

    End of line? Do we have flat earthers’ who think the world is flat. It is a globe every where is half way between some where. We do not fall off the planet if we continue to head south, we start going north, South America South Africa.

    Build a hub at Broome/Port Headland to serve South East Asia,

    At least these services takes pressure of Sydney and removes a connection for a Canberran.

  19. Craigy says

    @ Anil Your claim everybody would prefer a Singapore hub is a mass generalisation unless you can produce evidence to support your claim.

    Singapore was a hub as such to connect with the London, Frankfurt and Paris flights. Problem was that most seats on flights had to be allocated for the the Europe bound flights. The bonus of the Emirates arrangement is that Dubai becomes the hub with passengers changing to fly to their destinations in Europe and Africa without having to go via London. Saved time and reduced cost. Qantas simply doesn’t have the balance sheet to fly to a large number of European destinations. That is fact.

    @Fleming. The reason Qantas withdrew from routes out of Perth is that they were unable to make a profit with their cost base and perhaps the lack of patronage by the people of WA.

    Question re the terminal. Who owns it? Is it owned by Qantas or the airport operator? If its the operator, then surely to boost revenues from operating the terminal ie rent from shops etc, it is in their interest to work with Qantas to enable more international routes.

    Re international air services agreements. If you allowed open slather, then airlines like Qatar would dump capacity on routes to drive competitors out of the market. They have the deep pockets to allow them to take short term losses with the knowledge as competitors leave the market airfares can rise . If thats what you want then don’t complain when air fares become so high. Qantas isn’t the only airline to walk away from Perth. Don’t forget BA did fly daily to Perth via Singapore but couldn’t make a profit on the route so withdrew. And all the foreign airlines operating to Perth hub somewhere.

    I have a feeling from Alan Joyce’s comments that while Perth London has been mentioned, I think there are other routes being considered but the passenger experience has to be right, which is why the need to be able to depart from the Qantas terminal in Perth is important.

  20. Dawso says

    It is simply a matter of perspective. Living in Shanghai and travelling almost weekly, Cathay and Singapore are great to get to their hubs but for Europe, U.S. & ANZ you can go direct with Multiple European, U.S. & Qantas + ANZ, where as the hub airlines such as Emirates, Cathay and Singapore just add hours. Qantas works in a simalar way hubbing in Sydney for their market, it’s just economics.. Compare the latest results, Cathay and Singapore are struggling (not only financially, also service and fit out is tired) whilst Emirates offers no transparency in true performance..

  21. Jack says

    Luke you have worked it out. Qantas may well be able to service a point to point destination like Auckland and who knows they may well one day soon.

    However flying a 737 to Auckland is a bit different to flying from Canberra to Singapore or Qatar where the route is only viable if you have onwards feed. Part of the reason Qantas wanted to setup their own full service regional carrier in Singapore.

  22. Ian Deans says

    It’s not “endless Qantas bashing” as stated above, but it is a fact the Qantas are no longer innovative, are definitely Sydney-centric, and are being left for dead by these other imaginative carriers.

  23. Anthony Urbani says

    Now we need a airline to go to the states and then we have West, North and East covered