The man who will permanently lead Singapore Airlines’ Canberra operations has moved to the capital as preparations for the historic first “Capital express” flights step up.
Sunday marks one month until the first flight from the city-state of 5.7 million people touches down at Canberra Airport, and comes after an agreement between ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Canberra region mayors and administrators on Friday to push for better road infrastructure to capitalise on the new routes.
Singapore Airlines’ A350 arrives in Australia for the first time
Singapore Airlines’ next-generation Airbus A350 has touched down in Australia for the first time.
Singapore Airlines’ ACT manager ChinYu Tan arrived about a fortnight ago from his prior base in Indonesia and said he had already admired the August weather.
“Since I arrived in Canberra with my young family I haven’t had a lot of time to explore, but the thing that has really stood out to me is the beautiful weather and the wonderful views of clear skies,” he said.
“There is certainly a lot of work to do over the coming 31 days, but it is a challenge that we as a team are very excited about.”
Singapore Airlines Regional vice-president Tan Tiow Kor said the airline had received “exceptional” support from Canberra businesses and the community and he expected the first flights would be at capacity, however limited seats remained for now.
“The majority of those that have booked their flights from Canberra appear to be planning to travel to South East Asia and North Asia [and] we are also seeing a significant number of customers planning to travel to Europe,” he said.
Singapore Airlines is in the final stages of recruitment for its new ACT office, which will be home for 17 staff.
Singapore Airlines’ new Canberra based managers, Chin Yu and Yew Kong, at Canberra Airport. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Mr Barr said the first memorandum of understanding with the Canberra Region Joint Organisation, made up of eight regional NSW councils including new member Bega Valley Shire, included a priority to strengthen regional freight and export opportunities and reflected agreement the federal Coalition needed to go further than its election promise on the Barton Highway.
“Things like the need to duplicate the Barton Highway, improvements to Kings Highway, and transport improvements in and around the airport are going to be important to capitalise on the [new] flights,” he said.
“There is a very clear view across the board that [the federal Liberals commitment] is inadequate to address the issues of the [Barton] Highway, the discussion focused on the need for a business case to inform that future investment rather than rushing ahead with overtaking lanes.”
Tourism arrivals and food, wine and government services exports were the key strengths for the wider region, he said.
“Truffles in the winter time, cherries from Young, oysters from the NSW South Coast, there are a lot of premium food and wine products that are in high demand in south-east Asia that will be able to go from paddock to plate pretty quickly as a result of this opportunity,” he said.
Mr Barr said he was very confident the government would succeed in attracting a low-cost domestic carrier and hoped to have an announcement in the very near future.
Mr Tan’s second-in-charge, Canberra station manager Yew Kong Loharrived from Singapore in July, and said he had been “incredibly impressed” with the fresh local produce, particularly dairy and meat products from the farmers’ markets.
Australian Border Force commander Craig Somerville said there would be 30 force staff working through the airport from September 21, with about half that at any one time. The full range of activities offered by the ABF in a “big airport” would be fielded in Canberra. The latest technology departure e-gates had already been installed and all remaining fit-out was expected to be completed by the end of the month, he said.