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Canberra Airport is buzzing about direct international flights

by April 3, 2016 General

A trade mission from Canberra will head to China next week to persuade other airlines to follow the ground-breaking decision by Singapore Airlines to run direct international flights from the ACT.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Canberra Airport boss Stephen Byron hope a company like China Eastern Airlines will be keen to be “first to be second” to fly out of the national capital.

Looking to buy direct flight tickets to Singapore with Singapore Airlines are Alex and Carrie Powick, of Higgins, with ... Looking to buy direct flight tickets to Singapore with Singapore Airlines are Alex and Carrie Powick, of Higgins, with their children Oscar 2 and Thomas 10 months. Photo: Graham Tidy

Singapore Airlines has decided to extend the deadline for booking discount fares on its first direct flight from Canberra, in September.

That’s extremely good news for Carrie and Alex Powick, of Higgins, who visited the airline’s tent at the Canberra Airport open day on Sunday.

They intend to travel to England this year to visit relatives and are pleased to have access to a direct flight to reduce the stress on their children, two-year-old Oscar and Thomas, 10 months.

They knew the introductory airfares had expired last week but were delighted to hear of the one-week extension, when told by Fairfax Media.

“That’s fantastic, it’s great not to have to stop in Sydney or Melbourne or Brisbane,” Mrs Powick  said.

“We have family in England so the fact that we can travel directly to Singapore and then straight on to London, especially with two young children, is a very attractive option, the less stopping the better.”

A huge crowd lines up to see the aircraft displays. A huge crowd lines up to see the aircraft displays. Photo: Graham Tidy

Her husband said they had not travelled overseas since the birth of their children.

“We’re looking to go this year … we’re looking at flights now, trying to pick our time,” he said.

The open day was massively successful, drawing a crowd of 30,000, a 25 per rise on the attendance figure for the last open day two years ago.

The highlight of the day for many aviation enthusiasts was the 17-minute spectacular by the RAAF Roulettes.

Singapore Airlines regional vice-president Tiow Kor Tan said the company had been humbled by the support from the people of Canberra and the surrounding region since announcing direct international flights.

“To show our thanks to the people of Canberra and the surrounding region, we will be extending the initial introductory fares, which expired last week, for an extra week,” Mr Tan told Fairfax Media.

“Until Monday, April 11, people will be able to purchase economy class fares for $625 all-inclusive for Canberra-Singapore return and $459 all-inclusive for Canberra-Wellington return.

“Ticket sales for the first flight to Singapore on September 21 are almost exhausted, while sales for flights in the first six months of service continue to grow each day.

“At this stage we are pleased with how these sales are tracking and while it is difficult to say exactly who is flying and why, there is a clear indication that bookings are a mix of business and leisure.”

For international flights, new facilities are being built at the airport for customs, immigration and quarantine, plus dedicated transit lounges, baggage screening, processing and collecting points, money exchanges and duty-free retail.

The terminal’s departure lounges and aerobridges will be capable of switching from a domestic function to an international gate.

Initially two gates of the existing 14 boarding gates will be dedicated for international flights, with provision for boarding gates to be increased to 20.

Mr Byron said construction of the new facilities for international operations began two weeks ago.

“We’ll unveil our plans towards the end of this month but construction is on track to be completed by the end of August,” he said.

“There is a lot of excitement in this city and right through the region about Singapore Airlines, and of course that’s as much about the tourists they’ll bring into the region, as it is for us to be able to travel up to Singapore and beyond.”

Singapore Airlines connects with 11 cities in China.

“I’m travelling with the Chief Minister on Sunday next week to Singapore and then over to Shanghai to talk to China Eastern Airlines amongst others,” Mr Byron said.

“The other airlines will want to see how Singapore goes but we’re very much on their radar now, they very much want to understand it and be ready to pounce as the opportunity grows.

“The culture in some of the Asian airlines is they are apprehensive about being first but they often want to be first to be second.

“They’ll all watch Singapore Airlines for a little while and then they’ll want to pounce to be first to be second.

“Open day has gone fantastically well, with more people than we’ve ever had before.”