Singapore Airlines going daily to Canberra and dropping tag flight to Wellington

Singapore Airlines first touched down in Canberra in September 2016. (Canberra Airport)
Singapore Airlines first touched down in Canberra in September 2016. (Canberra Airport)

Canberra will have daily flights to Singapore but lose nonstop services to Wellington from the start of May as Singapore Airlines (SIA) adjusts its schedule to the national capital.

The changes come 16 months after SIA commenced flying a Singapore-Canberra-Wellington rotation four times a week in September 2016, which it termed the “Capital Express” route, using two-class Boeing 777-200s with 266 seats.

From May 1, SIA will instead serve Canberra daily with four-class, 264-seat Boeing 777-300ERs as part of a Singapore-Sydney-Canberra-Singapore rotation and end its Canberrra-Wellington-Canberra tag flights.

It means those travelling between Singapore and Canberra will have a technical stop in Sydney on the inbound leg, rather a nonstop flight currently.

There are also schedule changes for those travelling to Canberra on SIA, with the inbound service on the new flight departing Singapore mid-morning and getting into Sydney at 2010 for a 70-minute technical stop before continuing onto Canberra for a 2220 arrival.

The outbound leg to Singapore remains an overnight flight.

While SIA will no longer operate between Canberra and Wellington, it will maintain service to the New Zealand capital via Melbourne instead, with a four times weekly Singapore-Melbourne-Wellington rotation with 777-200s.

The new service is an overnight flight from Singapore to Melbourne, touching down at Tullamarine at 0510. The aircraft will be on the ground for one hour and 50 minutes before taking off for Wellington, arriving at 1220.

The return service takes off from Wellington at 1345 and gets into Singapore, after an 80-minute technical stop in Melbourne, at 2245.

SIA regional vice president for Southwest Pacific Philip Goh said de-linking Canberra with Wellington would allow both cities to “chart their own growth path”.

“We are very excited by this development,” Goh told Australian Aviation in an interview shortly after making the official announcement of the schedule changes in Canberra on Wednesday.

“Our people will be working their socks off to make it happen and to make it work very well for everybody.”

Goh said data for the past 16 months of the “Capital Express” highlighted the different passenger flows for Canberra and Wellington.

For Canberra, most passengers were headed to South East Asia and North Asia. Therefore SIA has maintained the early morning arrival into Singapore for its flights departing Canberra to maximise connections to those markets.

There is also a product upgrade for Canberra, with first class, lie-flat business class, premium economy and economy available on the 777-300ER, compared to angled lie-flat business class and an older generation economy seat on the 777-200s on the route currently.

Meanwhile, Goh said the bulk of Wellington passengers were going to Europe and West Asia and a late evening arrival into Singapore offered the best connection times for those destinations.

“By operating at different time windows and allowing those connections that over the course the last 16 months that we have observed I think will really allow both services to grow,” Goh said.

“It’s a very good solution for both markets.

“Obviously as we develop the points further, the route further, we will continue to study and monitor how the traffic grows and at a suitable point in time in the future we will have see how to further work on the services.”

To coincide with the one-year anniversary of the “Capital Express”, SIA in September 2017 published a list of the top 10 destinations customers had travelled to from Canberra, as well as a list of the top 10 inbound destinations, during the first year of operations.

Excluding Singapore and Wellington, there were four cities common to both lists – Delhi and Mumbai in India, Hong Kong and London in the United Kingdom.

SIA will join Air New Zealand and Qantas offering nonstop service between Melbourne and Wellington.

Goh said the schedule changes were also positive for Sydney, given the 2120 departure offered a new year-round late-night option that arrived into Singapore in the early morning. Presently, SIA’s last flight out of Sydney departs a little after 1900, touching down in Singapore just after midnight.

And while some might be disappointed to lose a nonstop flight inbound to Canberra from Singapore, Goh said SIA’s one-stop option via Sydney was still a better proposition than other alternatives in the market.

“The alternative is that they fly into Sydney internationally and then they change to the domestic terminal and fly out from the domestic terminal to Canberra and I don’t think that is a very good experience for most people,” Goh said.

“So that little technical stop shouldn’t pose so much of a difficulty for people who understand how it works, it should be a good alternative to the other option.

“Really, it is putting two very good things into one package, which is offering a daily service for the Canberra market as well as introducing for the first time a late-night departure out of Sydney which will serve the business market really well.”

Goh said SIA was working through what the network changes would mean to the existing codeshare arrangements with Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia on the Singapore-Canberra-Wellington service.

Currently, Air New Zealand and SIA have a revenue-sharing arrangement on three routes – Singapore-Auckland (which both operate), Singapore-Christchurch and Singapore-Wellington (both operated by SIA). The Singapore-Canberra and Canberra-Wellington legs are not part of the alliance arrangements.

Meanwhile, Virgin Australia had its VA airline code on both the Singapore-Canberra and Canberra-Wellington sectors.

The chief analyst at aviation thinktank CAPA – Centre for Aviation Brendan Sobie said he believed Canberra-Singapore traffic has been strong enough to support a dedicated nonstop flight in both directions, with Canberra-Singapore traffic much stronger than Canberra-Wellington traffic.

“With the one-stop product in one direction, Singapore Airlines will risk losing some of its Canberra passengers and the momentum it has successfully built up the last 16 months in the Canberra-Singapore market,” Sobie told Australian Aviation on Wednesday.

Sobie said SIA had the opportunity to make Singapore-Canberra its first 787-10 route, pointing out the aircraft is the right size for the Canberra market and was expected to enter service in April, just before the network changes were due to occur.

“This would have sent the right message to the Canberra market. The triangle routing on the larger 777-300ER sends a mixed message and is an indication of SIA, known for its risk adversity, once again being too conservative.”

Canberra Airport said it a statement it was disappointed to lose nonstop flights to Wellington.

However, it said the “foundations for a trans-Tasman service between the two capital cities has now been laid”.

“We know now there is a proven opportunity for a service linking Canberra and New Zealand,” Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron said.

Canberra will receive its second international airline on February 12, when Qatar Airways begins Doha-Sydney-Canberra flights with Boeing 777-300ER equipment.

Wellington Airport chief executive Steve Sanderson the new routing to Singapore via Melbourne would “add further opportunity for travellers to access more seats to Singapore and beyond as a result of the change”.

“The Singapore service has been near capacity onwards from Canberra over the busy summer season, and we recognise the need to develop the long-haul service for both the Wellington and Canberra markets,” Sanderson said in a statement.

“Transit through Melbourne will also create the flexibility to add capacity as demand grows.”

Sobie said dropping Canberra-Wellington was “understandable” given local traffic was insufficient to justify maintaining the service.

“Serving Wellington via Melbourne enables SIA to tap into much higher local demand but does create a potentially sticky situation with Air New Zealand, which also operates this route,” Sobie said.

“Eventually SIA will need to figure out whether Wellington is worth maintaining as it could easily rely on its partners to operate the Australia to Wellington connection, providing similar overall transit times.”

A summary of Singapore Airlines’ new Canberra and Wellington flights starting May 1 2018
Flight Number/Routing
Days of operation
Time of departure
Time of arrival

SQ288 Singapore-Sydney

Daily

10:30

20:10

SQ288 Sydney-Canberra

Daily

21:20

22:20

SQ288 Canberra-Singapore 

Daily 

23:15

05:15+1 

 

 

 

 

 SQ247 Singapore-Melbourne

Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday

19:45 

05:10+1 

SQ247 Melbourne-Wellington

Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday

07:00

12:20

SQ248 Wellington-Melbourne

Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday

13:45

15:30

SQ248 Melbourne-Singapore

Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday

16:50

22:45

 

Comments

  1. Holden says

    Most unfortunate, and surrounded by hyperbole it would seem.

    “It’s a very good solution for both markets” – obviously apart from those people who were interested in travelling between Wellington and Canberra or v.v. , who are again routed via another city in Australia – it’s hard to see it as anything but a loss of service, not an improvement.

    “…little technical stop…” – really? It’s an unfortunate delay that does nothing to improve the service – Australian regional cities are all too frequently accustomed to their direct services being adjusted to accommodate little technical delays. Townsville – Singapore via Brisbane was a tragic example of that from Qantas.

    Reminds me of a sign I saw on bank a few years ago – ‘for your convenience we are now delaying branch opening until 9:30’ ?

    It’s a shame when erosion of service is wrapped up to be something exciting. Canberra goes from having 2 direct international destinations to having 1 international destination, and it’s not even a non-stop. That’s not a win.

    What is needed is a MoM/NMA aircraft that supports hub-busting. Unfortunately equipping to suit direct services to Australian regional destinations is not really on the radar of most airlines, and obviously not Singapore as an external carrier. The absence of an aircraft like the B757 or MoM/NMA in the region is all too obvious. And even then, Qantas has expressed interest for its value in domestic markets rather than once again looking to create effective capacity and yield on direct international links to regional international markets.

    What a shame.

  2. deano says

    Looks like stopping in Canberra opens new capacity into Sydney when bi lateral agreements are maxed out…..

  3. Craigy says

    @ Holden

    I suggest you re-read the comments made by Alan Joyce on the NMA and its use on thin international routes into Asia.

  4. john doutch says

    Going by those timings SYD/CBR is a one hour flight?????? Well written HOLDEN, never a truer word has been spoken. Totally agree with you. I’ll give MEL/Wellington on SQ 12 months at most.

  5. David says

    Singapore Airlines are smart to add MEL – WLG, with Emirates pulling out from the route. I agree with Delano, the new plan is a way of legally adding additional flights into Australia, and particularly Sydney. This needs to be looked at by the authorities..

  6. AlanH says

    Yep, wrap up any change in business arrangements with flamboyant language and you can sell anything to the punters as being a win-win situation. What a crock! I blame Qatar for this as they have shown how easy it is to get into SYD through the CBR backdoor when all your allocated slots are full. I expect several of the fast-emerging Chinese airlines will be taking this great leap forward too in the not too distant future.

    And to consider how the Chief Minister of the ACT effused about the new Singapore-Canberra-Wellington service would be just the start of making Canberra a viable alternate destination for international flights and the whole debacle descends into the usual dross of political flim-flam. The Canberra-Wellington approach was never going to be viable for an international airline like SQ. Why Qantas, Virgin or ANZ won’t touch it is anyone’s guess, but I’m sure they realised it too, long ago.

  7. Teddy says

    @Craigy

    From memory his comments were primarily focussed on thin routes from the hubs like SYD, MEL, BNE – and not creating new routes from under-serviced ports like Hobart, Canberra, Newcastle, Sunshine Coast or Townsville.

    The point here would once again seem to be that no-one wants to make the running into these ports. And most of them can’t sustain appropriately ranged B772 or A332 sized equipment currently in service.

    The economics would seem to suggest that if the MoM / NMA aircraft was positioned between B752 and B762 as a small widebody it would fill a gaping market void, and render viable a range of regional city airports, rather than just focussing on hubs. This is what made the B752 successful particularly across the Atlantic, and keeps it as a sought after airframe despite its age.

    No doubt it’s a blow to all the larger aspiring regional ports in Australia to see Canberra lose 2 direct international destinations in one swoop just as quickly as it gained them.

  8. Alex says

    Wow. Some of the comments here are not looking at the bigger picture.

    CBR gets daily flights with SQ now, a massive product upgrade with Flat J, PE and F. It gets this by tapping into the demand ex SYD. CBR alone couldnt sell that many premium seats by itself and also SQ gets an overnight ex SYD to connect with their early morning bank.

    I also think the late night arrival suits the top 10 destinations and the CBR market. Allows a full nights rest after long haul flights.

    Yes, WLG was lost, but the silver lining may be that NZ can now enter to provide onward Americas and NZ connections with a right sized aircraft 3-4pw

  9. Andrew McG says

    Wellington is not lost , just via Melbourne. Still just a lifeline to Wellington’s aspirations of runway extensions to become a widebody international destination. Bureaucrats were never going to make it work since the advent of the e-mail and conference call , and tourism-wise overshadowed by Christchurch. Who visits starting in the middle?

  10. Territory Aviator says

    Singapore Airlines could use Darwin and add on a DRW-AKL or DRW-WLG flights. Silkair have already added 6 flights a week from SIN-DRW using the 737-800 and Max aircraft. They could substitute 1 or 2 flights for a 777 flight from SIN-DRW-AKL. Return

  11. Hutch says

    @Deano and David,
    Singapore has no restrictions into Australia, unlike Qatar. If SQ wanted to drop Canberra completely and just launch a 5th, 6th or 10th Sydney flight, they could do that.

    As for Qatar, the Gov dropped the ball with that one. Triangle routings work pretty well for new secondary markets.

    Allowing Qatar to do a CBR tag completely, just gives them extra capacity into Sydney with only minimal benefit for Canberra. A DOH-CBR-SYD-DOH or vice versa, would have been a reasonable outcome. I can’t see Canberra – Middle East flight working non-stop both ways.

  12. Jarden says

    @David
    Emirates never flew Wellington to Melbourne. Only to Auckland and Christchurch.
    I expect both Qantas and Air NZ won’t be pleased with SQ starting Wellington to Melbourne they might have to reduce their frequencies with so many extra seats added to the market. Also Air NZ is not interested in Canberra the market is too small for them. They have said it on so many occasions.

  13. Matty says

    Agree with Alex. It might no longer be a direct flight but its now daily, and as stated in the report its better than travelling domestic to Sydney then doing the dance to get to the international terminal and go through customs and screening at Sydney. Also as stated in the report it leaves the door open for either Qantas, Virgin or Air NZ to connec to Wellington with B737 or A320 – which are a much better sized aircraft for such a link. Less than two years ago boarding an international aircraft at Canberra and travelling via Sydney would have been considered a huge victory. It is still a posiitve outcome for Canberra travellers.

  14. Baxter says

    Everyone who said air New Zealand could start Wellington Canberra,, why would they? If they were to add Canberra to their network, wouldn’t it make sense to send them via their HUB in Auckland and maximize Canberras connectivity?

  15. Ben says

    I’m not convinced that MEL is purely a technical stop on the return because there are alternate airports between WLG and SIN with an overall shorter route, even if you discount SYD as being too expensive. I suspect they may be taking on freight.

    I really can’t see a CBR-WLG service returning as I don’t think there is sufficient demand for a 737/A320 service. Maybe if somebody gets an E170/190 with 120 min ETOPS.

    Surely a CBR-AKL service would be more useful given the onward connections to North America and the Pacific.

  16. deano says

    Why not re write the freedom rites for and through Oz
    It will have minimal effect on VA or QF so who gives a toss what foreign carriers want
    They want to tag 2 destinations in Oz, no problem
    Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast
    Townsville and Cairns
    Newcastle and Canberra
    Hobart and Launceston
    Broome and Port Headland
    Are examples of multi stop tag flights

    Want to fly tag flights Sydney to Auckland fine, but no seats for sale on that sector

    Who cares if SQ or EK or the rest get upset!!

  17. Lechuga says

    Potentially a ridiculous comment, but is it possible they could start a similar route to Hobart via Adelaide? Give Adelaide some extra capacity but give Hobart an international flight?

  18. Mike says

    Interesting to note the SQ288 SIN-SYD-CBR-SIN flight number is used on both the outbound and inbound services from and to SIN.
    I don’t recall any carrier having an identical departing and arriving flight number from a given port, apart from day trips which don’t land anywhere enroute (ie Antarctic or charity charter flights).
    Is it usual for a continuous flight number to be utilised in this way?
    The SQ service to MEL/WLG has consecutive odd/even outbound and inbound flight numbers. Not so for the SYD/CBR flight is seems.
    Just curious.

  19. Jivyia Flire says

    Its a bit sad how our own national airline, doesn’t even fly international from the country’s capital, and they are so called the national airline of Australia. Really bad image Qantas! I mean like they haven’t even shown interest!! Its disgusting!!!

  20. Chris says

    I can understand why SQ has refined their Trans Tasman route, as the B772’s are being phased out and replace by A350/B787-10s. Secondly, SQ has flight/cabin crew based in CBR for the CBR/WLG/CBR service which a large expense.

    Since SQ has established there is a demand for CBR/WLG services feeding into the CBR/SIN service, I suspect that VA will operated a CBR/WLG/CBA using a B738 offering full business, premium economy and economy operating under VA/NZ/SQ flight numbers. VA aleady has the ground handling and check in facilities in CBR and WLG.

    Air NZ could operate a A321neo AKL/CBR/WLG/CBR/AKL service but the A320/A321neos will not have full business class product, only the new short haul ‘Business Lite’ product.

    With SQ offering full business class product on MEL/WLG/MEL, Air NZ doesn’t, as they use A320’s. Other than SQ, Qantas is the only carrier operating full business product which will put pressure on Air NZ providing good product for premium customers.

  21. Airlink85 says

    Overall this is good news for Canberra travellers. I have utilised the SQ service last year and it was so nice to get on a plane in Canberra and land in an international destination – as opposed to the rush rush rush quickly quickly to the connector bus to the international terminal all within a 1-2 hour transit time.

    The new revised SQ schedule return leg still allows for this seamless travel – same seat same aircraft clear customs immigration in CBR.

    The upgrade aircraft is defiantly welcomed as the old one has seen better days and the daily services allow for better holiday planning.

    The only losers in the whole arrangement are out kwaussies who were enjoying the door door on the SQ as opposed to the cordial service on the Jetconnect aka Qantas via Sydney. I reckon Kwaussies need to calm down and wait for the next carrier to enter the space.

  22. says

    Canberra, and I very happily lived their for more than a quarter century, is the most misunderstood air market in the region. Out of towners in the big smoke think of it as a place filled with bureaucrats, diplomats and politicians. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a highly upmarket demographic and travel concious pool of more than half a million people. Why AirNZ, Qantas or Virgin can’t see the point in operating Canberra-Auckland has always defied my logical mind. Guys, the market is there and worth at least trying with a three or four times a week sked using A320s or 73s. What have you got to lose?

  23. Geoff says

    Congratulations again to SQ for catalysing the market. Qatar will make Canberra work as will SQ on the new SIN-MEL-WLG route.

    Congrats to all involved.