With flights to Singapore and Doha already taking wing, Canberra Airport is now looking to add New Zealand to its network map.
Managing Director of Canberra Airport, Stephen Byron, considers trans-Tasman travel as “the piece that's missing” – or will be missing from May 1, when Singapore Airlines drops the Wellington leg of its Singapore-Canberra service.
Byron tells Australian Business Traveller he hopes to see Qantas connect Canberra and Wellington with “a great little capital express shuttle service.”
“We’ll be working hard with them to see if they can offer us an opportunity to replace the Canberra-Wellington service… they are the logical partner for Canberra-Wellington, and they would be our first choice of partner.”
“The numbers by themselves for Canberra-Wellington, ignoring the transit passengers going through to Singapore, demonstrates support for a four times a week Boeing 737 service,” Byron reflects.
“We've always said in all of our route development that we would give the number one opportunity to Qantas, our home-base carrier, and we've done that.”
Qantas has been approached for comment on the possible introduction of Canberra-Wellington flights.
AirNZ to Auckland, and beyond
Canberra-Auckland flights are also in the frame, with Air New Zealand the front-runner to carry passengers not only to the popular north island city but onwards to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Hawaii, Vancouver and Buenos Aires in a one-stop service.
“Auckland would provide an opportunity for a bridge through to the Americas,” Byron says – and it’d be an especially appealing one for travellers seeking to avoiding the not-always-necessary evil of LAX.
Canberra Airport's potential base of travellers includes not only the Australian capital but almost one million people "within a two-hour drive," Byron suggests. "And that’s not even being at all aggressive on Wollongong and (the Southern Highlands)."
Looking beyond New Zealand, Byron holds that Hong Kong could be next on the list.
“We could maybe have Qantas to Hong Kong, or Virgin Australia’s partner Hainan to Hong Kong, or Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong.”
Cathay Pacific last month sought to quash speculation that it would launch Canberra-Hong Kong flights, with the airline's regional GM Rakesh Raicar telling Australian Business Traveller that "Canberra is not in the planning stage at all."
Byron of course disagrees, suggesting that Canberra and Hong Kong “would be a great fit. And you know, the reality is many of these airlines imminently before they do something, say ‘no’” and deny those plans, Byron suggests.
“Now I don't think we're that close with Cathay, or anyone else. But you never know, do you?”