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Canberra Airport calls on government to look into high number cancelled flights to the capital

written by australianaviation.com.au | November 23, 2017

Canberra Airports says the federal government should step in and make airlines accountable for the high rate of cancellations on flights to and from the national capital and is calling for a national taskforce to investigate the issue.

Citing figures from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE), Canberra Airport says travellers are getting a raw deal from the airlines when it comes to on-time performance, particularly on the Canberra-Sydney route.

The BITRE numbers show 8.1 per cent of flights from Canberra to Sydney were cancelled in September, well above the national long-term average of 1.4 per cent for all domestic scheduled flights. While there was a slight improvement in October with the cancellation rate on the route at 6.6 per cent, this was still far higher than the national average.

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Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron said the cancellations affected everyone from business travellers heading interstate for a meeting to those attending weddings, sporting events and concerts.

Byron said a national standard was required where the federal government, “as both the regulator of the aviation industry and as the protector of consumers steps in”.

“Canberrans are paying a premium price to choose air travel and their plans are being messed up because they are receiving an unreliable service,” Byron said in a statement on Thursday.

“In my view a monthly cancellation rate of more than five per cent warrants intervention by the federal government, and a demand for both an explanation and an improvement.”

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As a short-term measure, Byron called on the federal government to establish a taskforce comprising representatives from Airservices, Canberra Airport, Sydney Airport, the Sydney Airport slot manage, Qantas and Virgin Australia to “investigate systemic problems”.

25% off starts now! Australian Aviation magazine Cyber Monday sale is now live. Have the very best of Australian Aviation’s annual print and digital subscription. This includes every In Focus and Behind the Lens digital magazine, special coverage, exclusive photos and editions you may have miss. Subscribe now at australianaviation.com.au.

31 Comments

  • Brad

    says:

    Two points:
    – You may want to update your file photo; that would have to be 6 or 7 years old.
    – Cancellations are often a function of low loads. Would CBR Airport prefer that these flights never be scheduled? Canberra is basically quite a small city and outside of parliamentary sitting weeks, it can be very quiet. Airlines may not openly admit it but, providing they have an alternative within a reasonable time and it doesn’t dislocate the fleet, they will cancel flights with low loads.

  • Dunover

    says:

    Brad, I agree with you. Airports shouldn’t get involved in the profit based decisions of an airline. Empty airliners are best left on the ground or redeployed somewhere else.
    This is kind of a silly argument for Canberra airport to make.

  • Lechuga

    says:

    Canberra is almost regional, its not a big place for people to go. I think sometimes the planes are too big.

  • Craigy

    says:

    Interesting statistic but without knowing why the flights were cancelled, its just a statistic. For the most part, Brad is correct. I feel that the only reason why Byron is complaining is that when flights are cancelled, Canberra Airport loses out on landing fees etc.

    After a quick review of The Qantas Source, Qantas has cancelled 4 flights in the period 14-22 Nov. 3 Syd – Cbr return on the 22nd and 1 Mel – Cbr return on the 18th.

  • Trash Hauler

    says:

    Surely it isn’t anything to do with Cobham 717 pilots taking industrial action?!

  • Scotty

    says:

    Typical privately run airport trying to maximise their profit and who care’s who has to pay for it. Critical Infrastructure like Airports should always be publicly owned or at least, regulated and price controlled..

    Blind Fredy knows why these flights are being cancelled and that’s a commercial decision between the airline and their customers and here’s Canberra airport looking to the Federal Government to act as some sort of stand-over man to ensure profits…. unbelievable, even for a monopoly player…

  • Hugh

    says:

    The Oct 2017 BITRE report for that month shows that 42 (8.84%) of CBR-SYD flights by QantasLink were cancelled, while 36 (7.68%) of SYD-CBR flights by QantasLink were cancelled. QantasLink is the dominate market share holder for this city pair and these cancellations represented the bulk of cancellations for the routes for that month. The statistics may be slightly unrepresentative, as the 16th-18th October experienced significant disruption as yet not fully explained. See article here for full BITRE data deep dive, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/your-flight-cancelled-october-hugh-mccann/

  • john doutch

    says:

    1. This is old news. It made the press 10 days ago.
    2. I notice there is no comment from the airport management about the xtra flights QF put on with 738″s. For those interested, check QF source, you may be surprised at the amount of xtra flights operated..

  • Jacob

    says:

    Do cancellations include weather cancellations? I can see the fog I’m Canberra having a bit impact

  • Chris

    says:

    The government have enough things they aren’t doing (sorting out what citizenship they are or aren’t) let alone launching a taskforce to enquire as to why flights are getting cancelled to CBR.

  • Hutch

    says:

    @Brad The QF737 Mendoowoorrji was launched in Nov 2013. Photo is a maximum 4 years old and if they took the photo today, very little would have changed.

    Points about low loads are fair, but generally airlines should have an idea about load levels well and truly before the day. I think Canberra airport would prefer less scheduled flights, which run as per the timetable as much as possible. Also worth noting the 717 maintenance issues would be an impact here too.

    If the service becomes unreliable, people look at other options… particularly on CBR-SYD. QFlink is scoring an own goal against its brand image. At least in the ACT market.

  • Bob

    says:

    I worked in Canberra from 1965 till 1983 and if you realistically at the increase in population that has only been approximately 100,000 people. The only industry Canberra has is the Politicions and the Public Service. The highs and troughs revolve around Parliamentary sittings, Passenger loadings were high Sunday night, Monday, and morning Tuesday inbound Outbound was mainly Thursday afternoon and Friday morning The rest of the time overseas groups helped increase passengers although most arrived first flight in the morning and departing late afternoon
    Canberra Sydney leg was also disadvantaged with the opening of the freeway This meant it was that it became cheaper to drive from Canberra to either Western and Southern Sydney It use need 100 to 120 percent load factor to make a profit between Canberra and Sydney
    The final problem Canberra has is operation during winter with frost and fogs, this makes timetable integrity more luck than good management Sydney slot times have not only bearing on airline operations Canberra would possibly loose out to accommodate higher capacity aircraft
    Airlines choose flights with the least amount of passengers and least impact to the high money earners to be canceled It’s commonsense that a flight operated by a 737 or 330 would have preferences to operate ahead of a Q300
    Unfortunately until Canberra develops new industries passengers traffic will not increase and airlines will still make sure they don’t leak money for their bottom line

  • Chris Grealy

    says:

    What a strange story – it doesn’t touch on the reasons for all these alleged cancellations. Coming from where this complaint does, it is reasonable to conclude that the Airport MD is more concerned about loss of revenue than any inconvenience suffered by the self-loading-cargo.

  • Scott

    says:

    8.84% there’s the problem right there! There really high numbers.

  • Brad

    says:

    @hutch The photo on the article has now changed from when irt was originally posted. The original photo was of the old airport operating behind the construction of the new terminal.

  • Bill

    says:

    Canberra would be best suited to E170s and E190s. Now if only someone operated them…

  • Patrickk

    says:

    Bob,
    Canberra has changed a lot on the last 35 years. There are other industries and qantas mainly have 717s and Q400s except for Adelaide, Perth and peak Melbourne flights, no Q300s. Qantas has 18 flights a day to Sydney and 11 to Melbourne now and from my experience most are full. Canberra is no longer the backwater you remember. There is now navigational aids to reduce fog effects. The cancellations are high but consolidating flights is not a huge problem to Sydney as the next flight is quite soon. I think the issue is landing slots In Syd and Qantas link servicabitility Issues.

  • Lechuga

    says:

    @bill even CS100 and CS300 maybe.

  • Patrickk

    says:

    Interesting that today Qantas said they are moving to some more 737s (presumably at a lesser schedule during peak hour i.e every 40 rather than 20mins) which points to QantasLink capacity issues not load factors.

  • Anthony Byrne

    says:

    In 1999, this same magazine published a cover story: Kendall Airlines Acquires CRJ200s to fly domestic services to and from Canberra, at a time where Impulse flew Beech 1900Ds, Qantaslink Q200s and Kendall rockin the Saab 340As! And THAT was it! A 50-seater domestic jet service was FRONT page news for Canberrans! And look how Kendall went after that expansion! Remember: Ansett folded, but Kendall and Aeropelican kept flying afterwards! Expansion by the airlines to include jet services to cities which enjoy SEASONAL high pax numbers (such as Canberra and the parliamentary sitting session) will NEVER work! This is why Qantaslink only fly 1x 717 service and Virgin 1x E190 return service daily linking Sydney and Canberra today, to give at least one business class option flight each, the rest made up of ATR and Bombardier props! And now that Parliament is winding down for the year, even some prop services fly at a loss… and pax numbers are too low. THOSE are the services that are cancelled! Price elasticity is out the window when we are talking about razor-thin profit margins of even 1% on a good day!

    The two major airlines need to cut back to turboprop services ONLY to Sydney and Melbourne, and use the 717 and E190 on the longer routes, instead of the 737s… Tigerair should increase its schedule and Jetstar to match. And FlyPelican should add at least one more low-capacity domestic route to its current offerings out of Canberra. The way things are going, it wouldn’t surprise me if FlyPelican are the most profitable airines operating to Canberra; just like when REX was the most profitable airline to operate in Sydney in 2013-14 with just 18 Saab props!

    If a seasonal schedule was implemented, Canberras can better-prepare their arrangemenrs, and airlines can hone in on their profit and loss strategies through anticipated annual seasonal downturn, rather than the abrupt non-mechanical cancellations!

    In short… moving from CRJ200 jets to 737s in less than 10 years is in my opinion a failure of Canberra Airport Management to allow it to get to this stage!

  • Patrickk

    says:

    Anthony 5 of the 21 Syd to Canberra this Friday are B717 jets at the peak times not the one as you suggest. They will bring I suspect at least one 737 per day maybe to ease the pressure on 717s. This will bring the number down to 3 or 4 jets per day.

  • D W Bell

    says:

    Having read through the comments so far, a number of people make some very valid points. The realities are this. Canberra is there because of the politicians and while there are some fringe blue collar industies, in effect other than sitting weeks, Canberra is basically a “large regional” airport with some part time international movements. While there is “CPI” style populatin growth, the reality is that the “low costs” are not really a true player and what should happen is that the 2 “full service” airlines respond to seasonal market demands by changing out the 737 aircraft tot he smaller options, although now that Virgin did not really do it’s homwework and is letting go it’s E-190 and ATR’s where “off season these would have been a realistice swap out. I live in Armidale NSW and while there is a big difference between 330,000 and 25,000 in population, the principles of stagnent population growth, 1 dimensional ecconomic inputs, in both cases a “White collar” public service orientated platform, cancellations will occur as these airports are actually not main stream players. Even Tamworth which is a maintenance base for the Dash 8’s is not immune from flights being shelved. QANTAS MUST get away from being Sydney centric and look at regional centre pairings, although it would appear to have missed the boat with Dubbo/ Canberra, Dubbo – Tamworth Brisbane etc. Virgin have to realise that they can not be all things to all people and look at tiered fleet mix, but not in the hit and miss fashion of the last 4 to 5 years. In saying this Canberra while not insignificant is not a hub as the 3 Eastern State captials are. So therefore needs to work out it’s place within Australian aviation and not complain about issues that it can not control, biut promote the positives.

  • Ben

    says:

    Would it not make more sense simply not to schedule as many flights in the off peak periods, rather than schedule the same number of flights each day and then cancel them if the demand isn’t there? Surely this has to come down to poor planning by the airlines.

    Quite often I transit through SYD going to other destinations. I don’t think I’ve ever looked at the departure board without seeing flights to Canberra cancelled.

    I had to go to Canberra last year for work. The trip back to SYD was late on a Friday afternoon, with only a 1 hour connecting time for my flight home. Luckily my flight was not cancelled, but the scheduled flights to SYD immediately before and after mine were cancelled. From memory the flight was quite full, understandably. So just schedule less flights, it can’t be that difficult.

    I also think the flight times to SYD are ridiculously short. Even by turboprop, let alone jet. So it often becomes more convenient to use alternative transport. I know it was part of the agreement when they were selecting the site for Canberra, that it had to be within a certain distance of SYD. However in hindsight I think it would have probably been better to locate it closer to the halfway point between SYD and MEL. Say on the NSW/VIC border on the South Coast NSW. This would have had the added advantage of sea/port access and have National Highway 1 passing through the National Capital. It would now also mean close to 230 nm flight from either MEL or SYD. Still a short flight but at least able to get to a reasonable cruising altitude before needing to descend. This would probably be more economical and being on the coast would have led to more population growth and passenger demand in the future. Not just a home for the politicians.

    However at the time of Federation the aeroplane wasn’t invented and being closer to a big city was probably more important due to the limited transport options available back then. Also I think there was something in the planning that said they didn’t want Canberra to be on the coast, to safeguard against naval attack. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

  • James

    says:

    @ Anthony Byrne

    Why is it a failure on airport management?

    The CRJ was never going to work in Australia due fuel prices and plenty of aerodromes around the country are now seeing regular 737’s which they hadn’t since before the dispute.

    Why would the airport try and stop larger aircraft/increased frequency?

    It’s up to the airlines to make that decision.

  • Nicholas

    says:

    I thought this was a joke till I read it and saw it was for real.

    Only in Canberra could you get an airport having a dummy spit at how the free markets works, not liking it as they aren’t making enough money (presumably) and then wanting government intervention.
    Shame shame. Wonder what their Airlines think of this little tantrum?

  • Paul

    says:

    I concur with Ben: Would it not make more sense simply not to schedule as many flights in the off peak periods, rather than schedule the same number of flights each day and then cancel them if the demand isn’t there?

    Competition is NOT always ‘best’ for the business, or the customer, or the region. Historically (across all industries), too much competition almost always CAUSES unreliable or lost services due to undercutting, and often results in failed businesses.

  • Thomas Simpson

    says:

    My son is a public servant who has to regularly attend meetings in Canberra. He has taken to driving from Sydney to Canberra simply because of these cancelled flights. One day he arrived at Mascot for an early flight intending to be there for a 9am meeting, but two flights were cancelled and he did not make it to his office until 12 noon.

    This simply is not good enough, especially as Canberra is this country’s capital city and overseas visitors getting their flights cancelled makes Australia look like a 3rd world country (or worse).

  • William Hart

    says:

    My word, is this a priority issue? What a shame. So many overinflated egos to be transported around at taxpayers expense including the hangers on such as the journos who need to drastically lift their game ie start writing the truth.

  • Bob Brinckley

    says:

    Lots of chat about the reasons for the cancellations. Pity a true investigative journalist hasn’t picked up on the main reason. The regular failures of the B717 fleet somewhere on the network. The purchase of these second hand aircraft by QF was seen as a way on downsizing capacity on some of the thinner routes. But alas these older and well used aircraft are going US at a high rate.

  • Scott

    says:

    @ Thomas
    Maybe your son should demand a different airline, if he is booked on the one that runs at 8.86% cancellation rates inform that government booking agency to book the alternative airline, there are other airline options rather than driving.

  • AlanH

    says:

    As a Canberra resident can I just point out that we are not a “regional backwater” anymore, but the nation’s capital city of 400,000 now. Plus if you take in the surrounding region that use CBR airport as their fly-to option it is probably approaching double that. If that doesn’t demand some commonsense approach to flight scheduling then what does it mean? I tend to agree that this whole storm in a teacup is really just a “dummy spit” by the owners of CBR airport, and is probably being over-stated from the perspective of the number of pax actually being impacted. Cancelled flights of 8.8% don’t tell us how many or what percentage of pax that represents in a month. After all, if airlines are going to be confronted with flying half-full aircraft at a loss of course they will cancel flights. But I also agree with other commentators above that proper and accurate scheduling by the majors should be done so that pax do not get false expectations nor the inconvenience that results from cancelled flights. The airlines need pax to survive, but the way they treat them with so much contempt is disgusting! Bring on the fast train!

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Canberra Airport calls on government to look into high number cancelled flights to the capital

written by australianaviation.com.au | November 23, 2017

Canberra Airports says the federal government should step in and make airlines accountable for the high rate of cancellations on flights to and from the national capital and is calling for a national taskforce to investigate the issue.

Citing figures from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE), Canberra Airport says travellers are getting a raw deal from the airlines when it comes to on-time performance, particularly on the Canberra-Sydney route.

The BITRE numbers show 8.1 per cent of flights from Canberra to Sydney were cancelled in September, well above the national long-term average of 1.4 per cent for all domestic scheduled flights. While there was a slight improvement in October with the cancellation rate on the route at 6.6 per cent, this was still far higher than the national average.

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Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron said the cancellations affected everyone from business travellers heading interstate for a meeting to those attending weddings, sporting events and concerts.

Byron said a national standard was required where the federal government, “as both the regulator of the aviation industry and as the protector of consumers steps in”.

“Canberrans are paying a premium price to choose air travel and their plans are being messed up because they are receiving an unreliable service,” Byron said in a statement on Thursday.

“In my view a monthly cancellation rate of more than five per cent warrants intervention by the federal government, and a demand for both an explanation and an improvement.”

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As a short-term measure, Byron called on the federal government to establish a taskforce comprising representatives from Airservices, Canberra Airport, Sydney Airport, the Sydney Airport slot manage, Qantas and Virgin Australia to “investigate systemic problems”.

25% off starts now! Australian Aviation magazine Cyber Monday sale is now live. Have the very best of Australian Aviation’s annual print and digital subscription. This includes every In Focus and Behind the Lens digital magazine, special coverage, exclusive photos and editions you may have miss. Subscribe now at australianaviation.com.au.

31 Comments

  • Brad

    says:

    Two points:
    – You may want to update your file photo; that would have to be 6 or 7 years old.
    – Cancellations are often a function of low loads. Would CBR Airport prefer that these flights never be scheduled? Canberra is basically quite a small city and outside of parliamentary sitting weeks, it can be very quiet. Airlines may not openly admit it but, providing they have an alternative within a reasonable time and it doesn’t dislocate the fleet, they will cancel flights with low loads.

  • Dunover

    says:

    Brad, I agree with you. Airports shouldn’t get involved in the profit based decisions of an airline. Empty airliners are best left on the ground or redeployed somewhere else.
    This is kind of a silly argument for Canberra airport to make.

  • Lechuga

    says:

    Canberra is almost regional, its not a big place for people to go. I think sometimes the planes are too big.

  • Craigy

    says:

    Interesting statistic but without knowing why the flights were cancelled, its just a statistic. For the most part, Brad is correct. I feel that the only reason why Byron is complaining is that when flights are cancelled, Canberra Airport loses out on landing fees etc.

    After a quick review of The Qantas Source, Qantas has cancelled 4 flights in the period 14-22 Nov. 3 Syd – Cbr return on the 22nd and 1 Mel – Cbr return on the 18th.

  • Trash Hauler

    says:

    Surely it isn’t anything to do with Cobham 717 pilots taking industrial action?!

  • Scotty

    says:

    Typical privately run airport trying to maximise their profit and who care’s who has to pay for it. Critical Infrastructure like Airports should always be publicly owned or at least, regulated and price controlled..

    Blind Fredy knows why these flights are being cancelled and that’s a commercial decision between the airline and their customers and here’s Canberra airport looking to the Federal Government to act as some sort of stand-over man to ensure profits…. unbelievable, even for a monopoly player…

  • Hugh

    says:

    The Oct 2017 BITRE report for that month shows that 42 (8.84%) of CBR-SYD flights by QantasLink were cancelled, while 36 (7.68%) of SYD-CBR flights by QantasLink were cancelled. QantasLink is the dominate market share holder for this city pair and these cancellations represented the bulk of cancellations for the routes for that month. The statistics may be slightly unrepresentative, as the 16th-18th October experienced significant disruption as yet not fully explained. See article here for full BITRE data deep dive, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/your-flight-cancelled-october-hugh-mccann/

  • john doutch

    says:

    1. This is old news. It made the press 10 days ago.
    2. I notice there is no comment from the airport management about the xtra flights QF put on with 738″s. For those interested, check QF source, you may be surprised at the amount of xtra flights operated..

  • Jacob

    says:

    Do cancellations include weather cancellations? I can see the fog I’m Canberra having a bit impact

  • Chris

    says:

    The government have enough things they aren’t doing (sorting out what citizenship they are or aren’t) let alone launching a taskforce to enquire as to why flights are getting cancelled to CBR.

  • Hutch

    says:

    @Brad The QF737 Mendoowoorrji was launched in Nov 2013. Photo is a maximum 4 years old and if they took the photo today, very little would have changed.

    Points about low loads are fair, but generally airlines should have an idea about load levels well and truly before the day. I think Canberra airport would prefer less scheduled flights, which run as per the timetable as much as possible. Also worth noting the 717 maintenance issues would be an impact here too.

    If the service becomes unreliable, people look at other options… particularly on CBR-SYD. QFlink is scoring an own goal against its brand image. At least in the ACT market.

  • Bob

    says:

    I worked in Canberra from 1965 till 1983 and if you realistically at the increase in population that has only been approximately 100,000 people. The only industry Canberra has is the Politicions and the Public Service. The highs and troughs revolve around Parliamentary sittings, Passenger loadings were high Sunday night, Monday, and morning Tuesday inbound Outbound was mainly Thursday afternoon and Friday morning The rest of the time overseas groups helped increase passengers although most arrived first flight in the morning and departing late afternoon
    Canberra Sydney leg was also disadvantaged with the opening of the freeway This meant it was that it became cheaper to drive from Canberra to either Western and Southern Sydney It use need 100 to 120 percent load factor to make a profit between Canberra and Sydney
    The final problem Canberra has is operation during winter with frost and fogs, this makes timetable integrity more luck than good management Sydney slot times have not only bearing on airline operations Canberra would possibly loose out to accommodate higher capacity aircraft
    Airlines choose flights with the least amount of passengers and least impact to the high money earners to be canceled It’s commonsense that a flight operated by a 737 or 330 would have preferences to operate ahead of a Q300
    Unfortunately until Canberra develops new industries passengers traffic will not increase and airlines will still make sure they don’t leak money for their bottom line

  • Chris Grealy

    says:

    What a strange story – it doesn’t touch on the reasons for all these alleged cancellations. Coming from where this complaint does, it is reasonable to conclude that the Airport MD is more concerned about loss of revenue than any inconvenience suffered by the self-loading-cargo.

  • Scott

    says:

    8.84% there’s the problem right there! There really high numbers.

  • Brad

    says:

    @hutch The photo on the article has now changed from when irt was originally posted. The original photo was of the old airport operating behind the construction of the new terminal.

  • Bill

    says:

    Canberra would be best suited to E170s and E190s. Now if only someone operated them…

  • Patrickk

    says:

    Bob,
    Canberra has changed a lot on the last 35 years. There are other industries and qantas mainly have 717s and Q400s except for Adelaide, Perth and peak Melbourne flights, no Q300s. Qantas has 18 flights a day to Sydney and 11 to Melbourne now and from my experience most are full. Canberra is no longer the backwater you remember. There is now navigational aids to reduce fog effects. The cancellations are high but consolidating flights is not a huge problem to Sydney as the next flight is quite soon. I think the issue is landing slots In Syd and Qantas link servicabitility Issues.

  • Lechuga

    says:

    @bill even CS100 and CS300 maybe.

  • Patrickk

    says:

    Interesting that today Qantas said they are moving to some more 737s (presumably at a lesser schedule during peak hour i.e every 40 rather than 20mins) which points to QantasLink capacity issues not load factors.

  • Anthony Byrne

    says:

    In 1999, this same magazine published a cover story: Kendall Airlines Acquires CRJ200s to fly domestic services to and from Canberra, at a time where Impulse flew Beech 1900Ds, Qantaslink Q200s and Kendall rockin the Saab 340As! And THAT was it! A 50-seater domestic jet service was FRONT page news for Canberrans! And look how Kendall went after that expansion! Remember: Ansett folded, but Kendall and Aeropelican kept flying afterwards! Expansion by the airlines to include jet services to cities which enjoy SEASONAL high pax numbers (such as Canberra and the parliamentary sitting session) will NEVER work! This is why Qantaslink only fly 1x 717 service and Virgin 1x E190 return service daily linking Sydney and Canberra today, to give at least one business class option flight each, the rest made up of ATR and Bombardier props! And now that Parliament is winding down for the year, even some prop services fly at a loss… and pax numbers are too low. THOSE are the services that are cancelled! Price elasticity is out the window when we are talking about razor-thin profit margins of even 1% on a good day!

    The two major airlines need to cut back to turboprop services ONLY to Sydney and Melbourne, and use the 717 and E190 on the longer routes, instead of the 737s… Tigerair should increase its schedule and Jetstar to match. And FlyPelican should add at least one more low-capacity domestic route to its current offerings out of Canberra. The way things are going, it wouldn’t surprise me if FlyPelican are the most profitable airines operating to Canberra; just like when REX was the most profitable airline to operate in Sydney in 2013-14 with just 18 Saab props!

    If a seasonal schedule was implemented, Canberras can better-prepare their arrangemenrs, and airlines can hone in on their profit and loss strategies through anticipated annual seasonal downturn, rather than the abrupt non-mechanical cancellations!

    In short… moving from CRJ200 jets to 737s in less than 10 years is in my opinion a failure of Canberra Airport Management to allow it to get to this stage!

  • Patrickk

    says:

    Anthony 5 of the 21 Syd to Canberra this Friday are B717 jets at the peak times not the one as you suggest. They will bring I suspect at least one 737 per day maybe to ease the pressure on 717s. This will bring the number down to 3 or 4 jets per day.

  • D W Bell

    says:

    Having read through the comments so far, a number of people make some very valid points. The realities are this. Canberra is there because of the politicians and while there are some fringe blue collar industies, in effect other than sitting weeks, Canberra is basically a “large regional” airport with some part time international movements. While there is “CPI” style populatin growth, the reality is that the “low costs” are not really a true player and what should happen is that the 2 “full service” airlines respond to seasonal market demands by changing out the 737 aircraft tot he smaller options, although now that Virgin did not really do it’s homwework and is letting go it’s E-190 and ATR’s where “off season these would have been a realistice swap out. I live in Armidale NSW and while there is a big difference between 330,000 and 25,000 in population, the principles of stagnent population growth, 1 dimensional ecconomic inputs, in both cases a “White collar” public service orientated platform, cancellations will occur as these airports are actually not main stream players. Even Tamworth which is a maintenance base for the Dash 8’s is not immune from flights being shelved. QANTAS MUST get away from being Sydney centric and look at regional centre pairings, although it would appear to have missed the boat with Dubbo/ Canberra, Dubbo – Tamworth Brisbane etc. Virgin have to realise that they can not be all things to all people and look at tiered fleet mix, but not in the hit and miss fashion of the last 4 to 5 years. In saying this Canberra while not insignificant is not a hub as the 3 Eastern State captials are. So therefore needs to work out it’s place within Australian aviation and not complain about issues that it can not control, biut promote the positives.

  • Ben

    says:

    Would it not make more sense simply not to schedule as many flights in the off peak periods, rather than schedule the same number of flights each day and then cancel them if the demand isn’t there? Surely this has to come down to poor planning by the airlines.

    Quite often I transit through SYD going to other destinations. I don’t think I’ve ever looked at the departure board without seeing flights to Canberra cancelled.

    I had to go to Canberra last year for work. The trip back to SYD was late on a Friday afternoon, with only a 1 hour connecting time for my flight home. Luckily my flight was not cancelled, but the scheduled flights to SYD immediately before and after mine were cancelled. From memory the flight was quite full, understandably. So just schedule less flights, it can’t be that difficult.

    I also think the flight times to SYD are ridiculously short. Even by turboprop, let alone jet. So it often becomes more convenient to use alternative transport. I know it was part of the agreement when they were selecting the site for Canberra, that it had to be within a certain distance of SYD. However in hindsight I think it would have probably been better to locate it closer to the halfway point between SYD and MEL. Say on the NSW/VIC border on the South Coast NSW. This would have had the added advantage of sea/port access and have National Highway 1 passing through the National Capital. It would now also mean close to 230 nm flight from either MEL or SYD. Still a short flight but at least able to get to a reasonable cruising altitude before needing to descend. This would probably be more economical and being on the coast would have led to more population growth and passenger demand in the future. Not just a home for the politicians.

    However at the time of Federation the aeroplane wasn’t invented and being closer to a big city was probably more important due to the limited transport options available back then. Also I think there was something in the planning that said they didn’t want Canberra to be on the coast, to safeguard against naval attack. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

  • James

    says:

    @ Anthony Byrne

    Why is it a failure on airport management?

    The CRJ was never going to work in Australia due fuel prices and plenty of aerodromes around the country are now seeing regular 737’s which they hadn’t since before the dispute.

    Why would the airport try and stop larger aircraft/increased frequency?

    It’s up to the airlines to make that decision.

  • Nicholas

    says:

    I thought this was a joke till I read it and saw it was for real.

    Only in Canberra could you get an airport having a dummy spit at how the free markets works, not liking it as they aren’t making enough money (presumably) and then wanting government intervention.
    Shame shame. Wonder what their Airlines think of this little tantrum?

  • Paul

    says:

    I concur with Ben: Would it not make more sense simply not to schedule as many flights in the off peak periods, rather than schedule the same number of flights each day and then cancel them if the demand isn’t there?

    Competition is NOT always ‘best’ for the business, or the customer, or the region. Historically (across all industries), too much competition almost always CAUSES unreliable or lost services due to undercutting, and often results in failed businesses.

  • Thomas Simpson

    says:

    My son is a public servant who has to regularly attend meetings in Canberra. He has taken to driving from Sydney to Canberra simply because of these cancelled flights. One day he arrived at Mascot for an early flight intending to be there for a 9am meeting, but two flights were cancelled and he did not make it to his office until 12 noon.

    This simply is not good enough, especially as Canberra is this country’s capital city and overseas visitors getting their flights cancelled makes Australia look like a 3rd world country (or worse).

  • William Hart

    says:

    My word, is this a priority issue? What a shame. So many overinflated egos to be transported around at taxpayers expense including the hangers on such as the journos who need to drastically lift their game ie start writing the truth.

  • Bob Brinckley

    says:

    Lots of chat about the reasons for the cancellations. Pity a true investigative journalist hasn’t picked up on the main reason. The regular failures of the B717 fleet somewhere on the network. The purchase of these second hand aircraft by QF was seen as a way on downsizing capacity on some of the thinner routes. But alas these older and well used aircraft are going US at a high rate.

  • Scott

    says:

    @ Thomas
    Maybe your son should demand a different airline, if he is booked on the one that runs at 8.86% cancellation rates inform that government booking agency to book the alternative airline, there are other airline options rather than driving.

  • AlanH

    says:

    As a Canberra resident can I just point out that we are not a “regional backwater” anymore, but the nation’s capital city of 400,000 now. Plus if you take in the surrounding region that use CBR airport as their fly-to option it is probably approaching double that. If that doesn’t demand some commonsense approach to flight scheduling then what does it mean? I tend to agree that this whole storm in a teacup is really just a “dummy spit” by the owners of CBR airport, and is probably being over-stated from the perspective of the number of pax actually being impacted. Cancelled flights of 8.8% don’t tell us how many or what percentage of pax that represents in a month. After all, if airlines are going to be confronted with flying half-full aircraft at a loss of course they will cancel flights. But I also agree with other commentators above that proper and accurate scheduling by the majors should be done so that pax do not get false expectations nor the inconvenience that results from cancelled flights. The airlines need pax to survive, but the way they treat them with so much contempt is disgusting! Bring on the fast train!

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Canberra Airport calls on government to look into high number cancelled flights to the capital

written by australianaviation.com.au | November 23, 2017

Canberra Airports says the federal government should step in and make airlines accountable for the high rate of cancellations on flights to and from the national capital and is calling for a national taskforce to investigate the issue.

Citing figures from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE), Canberra Airport says travellers are getting a raw deal from the airlines when it comes to on-time performance, particularly on the Canberra-Sydney route.

The BITRE numbers show 8.1 per cent of flights from Canberra to Sydney were cancelled in September, well above the national long-term average of 1.4 per cent for all domestic scheduled flights. While there was a slight improvement in October with the cancellation rate on the route at 6.6 per cent, this was still far higher than the national average.

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Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron said the cancellations affected everyone from business travellers heading interstate for a meeting to those attending weddings, sporting events and concerts.

Byron said a national standard was required where the federal government, “as both the regulator of the aviation industry and as the protector of consumers steps in”.

“Canberrans are paying a premium price to choose air travel and their plans are being messed up because they are receiving an unreliable service,” Byron said in a statement on Thursday.

“In my view a monthly cancellation rate of more than five per cent warrants intervention by the federal government, and a demand for both an explanation and an improvement.”

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As a short-term measure, Byron called on the federal government to establish a taskforce comprising representatives from Airservices, Canberra Airport, Sydney Airport, the Sydney Airport slot manage, Qantas and Virgin Australia to “investigate systemic problems”.

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31 Comments

  • Brad

    says:

    Two points:
    – You may want to update your file photo; that would have to be 6 or 7 years old.
    – Cancellations are often a function of low loads. Would CBR Airport prefer that these flights never be scheduled? Canberra is basically quite a small city and outside of parliamentary sitting weeks, it can be very quiet. Airlines may not openly admit it but, providing they have an alternative within a reasonable time and it doesn’t dislocate the fleet, they will cancel flights with low loads.

  • Dunover

    says:

    Brad, I agree with you. Airports shouldn’t get involved in the profit based decisions of an airline. Empty airliners are best left on the ground or redeployed somewhere else.
    This is kind of a silly argument for Canberra airport to make.

  • Lechuga

    says:

    Canberra is almost regional, its not a big place for people to go. I think sometimes the planes are too big.

  • Craigy

    says:

    Interesting statistic but without knowing why the flights were cancelled, its just a statistic. For the most part, Brad is correct. I feel that the only reason why Byron is complaining is that when flights are cancelled, Canberra Airport loses out on landing fees etc.

    After a quick review of The Qantas Source, Qantas has cancelled 4 flights in the period 14-22 Nov. 3 Syd – Cbr return on the 22nd and 1 Mel – Cbr return on the 18th.

  • Trash Hauler

    says:

    Surely it isn’t anything to do with Cobham 717 pilots taking industrial action?!

  • Scotty

    says:

    Typical privately run airport trying to maximise their profit and who care’s who has to pay for it. Critical Infrastructure like Airports should always be publicly owned or at least, regulated and price controlled..

    Blind Fredy knows why these flights are being cancelled and that’s a commercial decision between the airline and their customers and here’s Canberra airport looking to the Federal Government to act as some sort of stand-over man to ensure profits…. unbelievable, even for a monopoly player…

  • Hugh

    says:

    The Oct 2017 BITRE report for that month shows that 42 (8.84%) of CBR-SYD flights by QantasLink were cancelled, while 36 (7.68%) of SYD-CBR flights by QantasLink were cancelled. QantasLink is the dominate market share holder for this city pair and these cancellations represented the bulk of cancellations for the routes for that month. The statistics may be slightly unrepresentative, as the 16th-18th October experienced significant disruption as yet not fully explained. See article here for full BITRE data deep dive, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/your-flight-cancelled-october-hugh-mccann/

  • john doutch

    says:

    1. This is old news. It made the press 10 days ago.
    2. I notice there is no comment from the airport management about the xtra flights QF put on with 738″s. For those interested, check QF source, you may be surprised at the amount of xtra flights operated..

  • Jacob

    says:

    Do cancellations include weather cancellations? I can see the fog I’m Canberra having a bit impact

  • Chris

    says:

    The government have enough things they aren’t doing (sorting out what citizenship they are or aren’t) let alone launching a taskforce to enquire as to why flights are getting cancelled to CBR.

  • Hutch

    says:

    @Brad The QF737 Mendoowoorrji was launched in Nov 2013. Photo is a maximum 4 years old and if they took the photo today, very little would have changed.

    Points about low loads are fair, but generally airlines should have an idea about load levels well and truly before the day. I think Canberra airport would prefer less scheduled flights, which run as per the timetable as much as possible. Also worth noting the 717 maintenance issues would be an impact here too.

    If the service becomes unreliable, people look at other options… particularly on CBR-SYD. QFlink is scoring an own goal against its brand image. At least in the ACT market.

  • Bob

    says:

    I worked in Canberra from 1965 till 1983 and if you realistically at the increase in population that has only been approximately 100,000 people. The only industry Canberra has is the Politicions and the Public Service. The highs and troughs revolve around Parliamentary sittings, Passenger loadings were high Sunday night, Monday, and morning Tuesday inbound Outbound was mainly Thursday afternoon and Friday morning The rest of the time overseas groups helped increase passengers although most arrived first flight in the morning and departing late afternoon
    Canberra Sydney leg was also disadvantaged with the opening of the freeway This meant it was that it became cheaper to drive from Canberra to either Western and Southern Sydney It use need 100 to 120 percent load factor to make a profit between Canberra and Sydney
    The final problem Canberra has is operation during winter with frost and fogs, this makes timetable integrity more luck than good management Sydney slot times have not only bearing on airline operations Canberra would possibly loose out to accommodate higher capacity aircraft
    Airlines choose flights with the least amount of passengers and least impact to the high money earners to be canceled It’s commonsense that a flight operated by a 737 or 330 would have preferences to operate ahead of a Q300
    Unfortunately until Canberra develops new industries passengers traffic will not increase and airlines will still make sure they don’t leak money for their bottom line

  • Chris Grealy

    says:

    What a strange story – it doesn’t touch on the reasons for all these alleged cancellations. Coming from where this complaint does, it is reasonable to conclude that the Airport MD is more concerned about loss of revenue than any inconvenience suffered by the self-loading-cargo.

  • Scott

    says:

    8.84% there’s the problem right there! There really high numbers.

  • Brad

    says:

    @hutch The photo on the article has now changed from when irt was originally posted. The original photo was of the old airport operating behind the construction of the new terminal.

  • Bill

    says:

    Canberra would be best suited to E170s and E190s. Now if only someone operated them…

  • Patrickk

    says:

    Bob,
    Canberra has changed a lot on the last 35 years. There are other industries and qantas mainly have 717s and Q400s except for Adelaide, Perth and peak Melbourne flights, no Q300s. Qantas has 18 flights a day to Sydney and 11 to Melbourne now and from my experience most are full. Canberra is no longer the backwater you remember. There is now navigational aids to reduce fog effects. The cancellations are high but consolidating flights is not a huge problem to Sydney as the next flight is quite soon. I think the issue is landing slots In Syd and Qantas link servicabitility Issues.

  • Lechuga

    says:

    @bill even CS100 and CS300 maybe.

  • Patrickk

    says:

    Interesting that today Qantas said they are moving to some more 737s (presumably at a lesser schedule during peak hour i.e every 40 rather than 20mins) which points to QantasLink capacity issues not load factors.

  • Anthony Byrne

    says:

    In 1999, this same magazine published a cover story: Kendall Airlines Acquires CRJ200s to fly domestic services to and from Canberra, at a time where Impulse flew Beech 1900Ds, Qantaslink Q200s and Kendall rockin the Saab 340As! And THAT was it! A 50-seater domestic jet service was FRONT page news for Canberrans! And look how Kendall went after that expansion! Remember: Ansett folded, but Kendall and Aeropelican kept flying afterwards! Expansion by the airlines to include jet services to cities which enjoy SEASONAL high pax numbers (such as Canberra and the parliamentary sitting session) will NEVER work! This is why Qantaslink only fly 1x 717 service and Virgin 1x E190 return service daily linking Sydney and Canberra today, to give at least one business class option flight each, the rest made up of ATR and Bombardier props! And now that Parliament is winding down for the year, even some prop services fly at a loss… and pax numbers are too low. THOSE are the services that are cancelled! Price elasticity is out the window when we are talking about razor-thin profit margins of even 1% on a good day!

    The two major airlines need to cut back to turboprop services ONLY to Sydney and Melbourne, and use the 717 and E190 on the longer routes, instead of the 737s… Tigerair should increase its schedule and Jetstar to match. And FlyPelican should add at least one more low-capacity domestic route to its current offerings out of Canberra. The way things are going, it wouldn’t surprise me if FlyPelican are the most profitable airines operating to Canberra; just like when REX was the most profitable airline to operate in Sydney in 2013-14 with just 18 Saab props!

    If a seasonal schedule was implemented, Canberras can better-prepare their arrangemenrs, and airlines can hone in on their profit and loss strategies through anticipated annual seasonal downturn, rather than the abrupt non-mechanical cancellations!

    In short… moving from CRJ200 jets to 737s in less than 10 years is in my opinion a failure of Canberra Airport Management to allow it to get to this stage!

  • Patrickk

    says:

    Anthony 5 of the 21 Syd to Canberra this Friday are B717 jets at the peak times not the one as you suggest. They will bring I suspect at least one 737 per day maybe to ease the pressure on 717s. This will bring the number down to 3 or 4 jets per day.

  • D W Bell

    says:

    Having read through the comments so far, a number of people make some very valid points. The realities are this. Canberra is there because of the politicians and while there are some fringe blue collar industies, in effect other than sitting weeks, Canberra is basically a “large regional” airport with some part time international movements. While there is “CPI” style populatin growth, the reality is that the “low costs” are not really a true player and what should happen is that the 2 “full service” airlines respond to seasonal market demands by changing out the 737 aircraft tot he smaller options, although now that Virgin did not really do it’s homwework and is letting go it’s E-190 and ATR’s where “off season these would have been a realistice swap out. I live in Armidale NSW and while there is a big difference between 330,000 and 25,000 in population, the principles of stagnent population growth, 1 dimensional ecconomic inputs, in both cases a “White collar” public service orientated platform, cancellations will occur as these airports are actually not main stream players. Even Tamworth which is a maintenance base for the Dash 8’s is not immune from flights being shelved. QANTAS MUST get away from being Sydney centric and look at regional centre pairings, although it would appear to have missed the boat with Dubbo/ Canberra, Dubbo – Tamworth Brisbane etc. Virgin have to realise that they can not be all things to all people and look at tiered fleet mix, but not in the hit and miss fashion of the last 4 to 5 years. In saying this Canberra while not insignificant is not a hub as the 3 Eastern State captials are. So therefore needs to work out it’s place within Australian aviation and not complain about issues that it can not control, biut promote the positives.

  • Ben

    says:

    Would it not make more sense simply not to schedule as many flights in the off peak periods, rather than schedule the same number of flights each day and then cancel them if the demand isn’t there? Surely this has to come down to poor planning by the airlines.

    Quite often I transit through SYD going to other destinations. I don’t think I’ve ever looked at the departure board without seeing flights to Canberra cancelled.

    I had to go to Canberra last year for work. The trip back to SYD was late on a Friday afternoon, with only a 1 hour connecting time for my flight home. Luckily my flight was not cancelled, but the scheduled flights to SYD immediately before and after mine were cancelled. From memory the flight was quite full, understandably. So just schedule less flights, it can’t be that difficult.

    I also think the flight times to SYD are ridiculously short. Even by turboprop, let alone jet. So it often becomes more convenient to use alternative transport. I know it was part of the agreement when they were selecting the site for Canberra, that it had to be within a certain distance of SYD. However in hindsight I think it would have probably been better to locate it closer to the halfway point between SYD and MEL. Say on the NSW/VIC border on the South Coast NSW. This would have had the added advantage of sea/port access and have National Highway 1 passing through the National Capital. It would now also mean close to 230 nm flight from either MEL or SYD. Still a short flight but at least able to get to a reasonable cruising altitude before needing to descend. This would probably be more economical and being on the coast would have led to more population growth and passenger demand in the future. Not just a home for the politicians.

    However at the time of Federation the aeroplane wasn’t invented and being closer to a big city was probably more important due to the limited transport options available back then. Also I think there was something in the planning that said they didn’t want Canberra to be on the coast, to safeguard against naval attack. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

  • James

    says:

    @ Anthony Byrne

    Why is it a failure on airport management?

    The CRJ was never going to work in Australia due fuel prices and plenty of aerodromes around the country are now seeing regular 737’s which they hadn’t since before the dispute.

    Why would the airport try and stop larger aircraft/increased frequency?

    It’s up to the airlines to make that decision.

  • Nicholas

    says:

    I thought this was a joke till I read it and saw it was for real.

    Only in Canberra could you get an airport having a dummy spit at how the free markets works, not liking it as they aren’t making enough money (presumably) and then wanting government intervention.
    Shame shame. Wonder what their Airlines think of this little tantrum?

  • Paul

    says:

    I concur with Ben: Would it not make more sense simply not to schedule as many flights in the off peak periods, rather than schedule the same number of flights each day and then cancel them if the demand isn’t there?

    Competition is NOT always ‘best’ for the business, or the customer, or the region. Historically (across all industries), too much competition almost always CAUSES unreliable or lost services due to undercutting, and often results in failed businesses.

  • Thomas Simpson

    says:

    My son is a public servant who has to regularly attend meetings in Canberra. He has taken to driving from Sydney to Canberra simply because of these cancelled flights. One day he arrived at Mascot for an early flight intending to be there for a 9am meeting, but two flights were cancelled and he did not make it to his office until 12 noon.

    This simply is not good enough, especially as Canberra is this country’s capital city and overseas visitors getting their flights cancelled makes Australia look like a 3rd world country (or worse).

  • William Hart

    says:

    My word, is this a priority issue? What a shame. So many overinflated egos to be transported around at taxpayers expense including the hangers on such as the journos who need to drastically lift their game ie start writing the truth.

  • Bob Brinckley

    says:

    Lots of chat about the reasons for the cancellations. Pity a true investigative journalist hasn’t picked up on the main reason. The regular failures of the B717 fleet somewhere on the network. The purchase of these second hand aircraft by QF was seen as a way on downsizing capacity on some of the thinner routes. But alas these older and well used aircraft are going US at a high rate.

  • Scott

    says:

    @ Thomas
    Maybe your son should demand a different airline, if he is booked on the one that runs at 8.86% cancellation rates inform that government booking agency to book the alternative airline, there are other airline options rather than driving.

  • AlanH

    says:

    As a Canberra resident can I just point out that we are not a “regional backwater” anymore, but the nation’s capital city of 400,000 now. Plus if you take in the surrounding region that use CBR airport as their fly-to option it is probably approaching double that. If that doesn’t demand some commonsense approach to flight scheduling then what does it mean? I tend to agree that this whole storm in a teacup is really just a “dummy spit” by the owners of CBR airport, and is probably being over-stated from the perspective of the number of pax actually being impacted. Cancelled flights of 8.8% don’t tell us how many or what percentage of pax that represents in a month. After all, if airlines are going to be confronted with flying half-full aircraft at a loss of course they will cancel flights. But I also agree with other commentators above that proper and accurate scheduling by the majors should be done so that pax do not get false expectations nor the inconvenience that results from cancelled flights. The airlines need pax to survive, but the way they treat them with so much contempt is disgusting! Bring on the fast train!

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