Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Canberra Airport are putting the finishing touches to prepare for the start of international flights to Canberra and Wellington, as the hours tick down to takeoff of the Star Alliance member’s “Capital Express” linking the Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.
Flight SQ291 was due to take off from Singapore at 2300 local time on Tuesday night, with the Boeing 777-200 scheduled to touch down in Canberra at 0835 Wednesday.
After an hour and 15 minutes on the ground, the flight continues onto New Zealand at 0950, arriving at Wellington at 1505.
The return flight from Wellington arrives back in Canberra at 2205, with SQ292 to depart for Singapore an hour and 25 minutes later at 2330.
The Singapore-Canberra-Wellington rotation will operate four times a week with 777-200s configured with 38 angled lie-flat business and 228 economy class seats.
SIA said on Tuesday those travelling in business class, its PPS Club and Krisflyer Elite gold frequent flyers, as well as Virgin Australia Velocity gold and platinum passengers would have access to the Virgin Australia lounge at Canberra Airport.
The lounge hours have been extended to accommodate the late departure of SQ292 to Singapore, SIA regional vice president Tan Tiow Kor said, adding that lounge access was one of the last outstanding items to be finalised ahead of the start of the service.
“We have been working closely with our alliance partner Virgin Australia to ensure our premium passengers had the option of accessing the Virgin Australia Lounge prior to their departure,” Tan said.
“As the Virgin Australia Lounge is not located in the international section of the terminal, we will liaise with Virgin Australia to ensure our premium passengers have ample time to clear customs and immigration before boarding their flight.
“With SQ292 to Singapore scheduled to depart Canberra several hours after the last domestic flight from Canberra, the opening hours of the Virgin Australia Lounge will be extended until the departure of SQ292.”
However, SIA said those transiting in Canberra while travelling between Singapore and Wellington would not be able to access the Virgin lounge while the aircraft was on the ground.
The Star Alliance member has appointed Aerocare as its ground handling agent at Canberra Airport.
Canberra Airport officially opened the doors of its international terminal on September 16. It posted a video of the event on Vimeo.
The international terminal features a 2,750 square metre departure lounge and 2,400 square metre arrival hall capable of handling one million passengers a year and concurrent operations by a widebody and narrowbody aircraft.
Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron said the airport would offer a “high level of service” for its international passengers in partnership with SIA, the Department of Agriculture and the Australian Border Force.
“We now have an enormous capability and strong competitive advantages to leverage growth in our international services to and from the Canberra region and, together with the ACT Government, are in active discussions with a number of airlines about additional services to other international destinations,” Byron said.
Capital Airport Group executive chairman Terry Snow said the official opening, which was also attended by federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester, was the “completion of our dream”.
“We have spent $2 billion to realise this ambition in commercial infrastructure, and an airport designed to handle 12 million passengers”, Snow said in a statement.
“We’ve shown plenty of guts in providing these facilities – it is now up to the Canberra community to take up the challenge”.
Designed by Guida Moseley Brown Architects, the international facility is being built by Canberra-based Construction Control.
Canberra is the ninth destination in Australia for the Singapore Airlines group. SIA serves Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, and regional wing Silkair flies to Cairns and Darwin. Meanwhile, low-cost unit Scoot flies to the Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.
And in New Zealand, Wellington will be the third SIA destination alongside Auckland and Christchurch.
Aviation thinktank CAPA – Centre for Aviation noted Australia and New Zealand was an open market with unlimited fifth freedom rights, meaning SIA will be able to sell tickets for travel between Canberra and Wellington.
“Adding Canberra and Wellington to the SIA network would not have been possible without the ability to operate across the Tasman Sea as the Canberra or Wellington market itself is too small to support a non-stop service from Singapore,” CAPA said in a research note dated January 27.
The new service will be supported both Virgin and Air New Zealand, which are codesharing on the route.