Singapore Airlines drops flights to Canberra, Wellington

Singapore’s national carrier makes an exit from the national capitals of Australia and New Zealand.

By Chris Chamberlin , September 14 2020
Singapore Airlines drops flights to Canberra, Wellington

Singapore Airlines’ flights to both Canberra and Wellington will not return even as international travel restrictions ease, with the carrier making a departure from both national capitals.

The withdrawal also marks the end of Singapore Airlines’ trans-Tasman flying, as Wellington was linked with Singapore via Melbourne.

“This decision is an extremely difficult one considering the hard work put in with our partners over the past few years to build both destinations into successful operations,” Singapore Airlines’ Regional Vice President for South West Pacific, Philip Goh, tells Executive Traveller.

“But, it is necessary as we foresee travel demand to remain stunted for a long period of time. Australia and New Zealand remain key markets for the SIA group and we remain firmly committed to ensuring both countries remain connected through our Singapore Hub.”

The carrier’s Canberra route operated as a Singapore-Sydney-Canberra-Singapore ‘triangle’, with Wellington served by Singapore-Melbourne-Wellington and Wellington-Melbourne-Singapore flights.

Singapore Airlines maintains Canberra, Wellington codeshares

Although Singapore Airlines won’t return its own aircraft to the capitals, both cities will continue to be served under codeshare arrangements with Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand.

Travellers jetting to and from Canberra will do so via another Australian city – typically Sydney or Melbourne, although Brisbane and Adelaide are possible too – flying Virgin Australia on the domestic leg (under an SQ codeshare flight number), and Singapore Airlines on the international flight.

For Wellington, the arrangements are similar, but involving its Star Alliance partner Air New Zealand.

This will see Wellington-bound or -based travellers flying via either Auckland or Christchurch, aboard Air New Zealand on the domestic flight (again, sold as an SQ codeshare), and with Singapore Airlines on the international service.

“We will proactively contact customers who are affected by the decision to suspend our Canberra and Wellington services,” Goh assures.

(In aviation industry speak, ‘suspend’ commonly signifies the full withdrawal of a service, but in a way that maintains the distant possibility that such flights may one day resume: even many years down the line.)

The previous launch, and reshuffle, of Canberra and Wellington

Singapore Airlines began serving Canberra and Wellington some 3.5 years ago, initially flying to both cities using a single aircraft: running as Singapore-Canberra-Wellington in one direction, and Wellington-Canberra-Singapore in the other.

Branded as the ‘Capital Express’, the flights directly linked the national capitals of Australia and New Zealand, making Singapore the first airline to offer regularly scheduled international flights from Canberra – to be later followed by Qatar Airways.

Melbourne eventually replaced Canberra as the stopover point for the airline’s Wellington flights: a move that helped entice trans-Tasman-only travellers to book with Singapore Airlines between Melbourne and Wellington, and helped fill up the Singapore leg with more Australian travellers.

At the same time, Canberra instead moved to a ‘triangle’ service with Singapore and Sydney.

This meant losing both its non-stop flights to Wellington and the non-stop Singapore-Canberra service, but did allow Canberra to retain its non-stop Canberra-Singapore leg, while providing an extra departure option for Sydneysiders looking to fly later in the day.

With the withdrawal of Canberra and Wellington, Singapore Airlines currently serves Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth in Australia, along with Auckland and Christchurch in New Zealand, for those able to fly.

Singapore Airlines’ regional arm SilkAir continues to pause its flights from Singapore to both Darwin and Cairns, with these flights currently set to return in late 2020 per the airline’s booking systems, although this may change if international travel restrictions remain.

In previous news, Singapore Airlines permanently closed its SilverKris lounge at Adelaide Airport back in May, handing the space back to the airport authority, which plans to build a shared international ‘premium lounge’ in 2021.

Singapore Airlines' partner, Virgin Australia, also recently shuttered its Wellington lounge, and closed two other lounges serving regional flyers in Australia.

Read: Virgin closes lounges in Wellington, Alice Springs, Perth

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

05 Sep 2013

Total posts 54

It's a shame but understandable from a business perspective.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 89

Which makes Qatar the only airline keeping Canberra Airport an international airport. 

That can become an issue (a bit like the car industry) if the border force personnel on site are kept for just one airline, with potentially the airport may levy extra charges as a result. 

But it’s more speculation from me rather than anywhere near the truth since I am not privy to any commercial arrangement between the airline, the airport and the ACT government.

AJW
AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 578

Think you will find the border force staff were not specifically allocated to the airport and instead had “day” jobs at border force HQ and attended at required. 

Also do bear in mind that before Qatar and before SQ dropping Wellington SQ only had 3 (or was it 4) flights a week and staffing were not an issue. 

As for Qatar it will be interesting to see what they do with Canberra. The only reason they flew there was because they maxed out the number of flights they could fly to major Australian cities under the bilateral agreement. But by flying to Canberra they were able to add that extra Sydney flight. With traffic expected to be down for a few years they may not require that extra Sydney flight or by reducing frequency to other major capitals they may be able to fit everything in without the tag. 

It’s such an important route for Wellingtonians despite WLG’s windy runway. This means no more twin-aisles wide bodied aircraft will fly to Wellington anymore. What a pity. Trans Tasman service with SIA was almost nostalgic with her 777’s old configuration. I remember the chief steward gave me a SGD$100.00 paperback voucher while I was asleep just for not being able to serve the “book the cook” menu. Because of that voucher, I gave Qantas a break and flew with SIA whereas I normally would not.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

21 Jul 2019

Total posts 45

I  also love that SQ cabin crew are empowered to resolve, or at least offer a respectable amount of compensation in the form of vouchers. It gives you a feeling of resolution even before the flight has ended. Now compare and contrast that to other airlines whose cabin crew can only direct you to contact customer service. I've never gotten a compensation voucher from SQ. And I would not ask for one even if my booked meal was not loaded. But it's good to know they take very good care of their pax.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jan 2015

Total posts 60

Oh No. I did travel often on business to Wellington and SQ was just the best for me. Very competetive Business fares. Very sad but totally understand the decision. 

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 303

a bit disappointing but the show must go on.i hope with the capacity they previously used for wellington it can be shifted to provide adelaide a handful of daytime flights ex singapore for the south australians not keen on the overnight service.currently and this was before covid 19 took place the only way to avoid that if you could not get on sq277 sin/adl was to get the morning flight to perth and get the virgin codeshare 5:15pm perth-adelaide getting in that night somewhere between 9:45pm and 10:30pm depending on time of year.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 74

Your state isn’t even open to NSW and only accepts 500 int arrivals per day. Good luck maintaining existing service to Adelaide let alone getting any new service after burning airlines this badly (ADL already have lost EK).

I'm still surprised that Air New Zealand hasn't launched direct flights between Canberra and Auckland for example. The Canberra-Wellington route obviously never had enough politicians flying between the two capitals but you'd think there would be a lot of tourism and maybe business appeal between Canberra and Auckland. But obviously there's not, if there was then Air New Zealand would be in there like a shot.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 74

Hopefully Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide are next to be suspended. It’s time Airlines start teaching the stupid federal and dumb state governments a lesson for draconian flight caps. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Mar 2011

Total posts 266

Thanks for this piece.

Didn't realise the flight wasn't coming back.

Had flown this MEL - WLG routce on the 777, was hoping to fly it on the 350, sad its not coming back for the forseeable future, no more cheap way to visit the KF lounge at MEL airport/Koru lounge at MEL, or to try the Koru at WLG int.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Jun 2016

Total posts 1

Would be great to see more AKL-MEL quality and competition in the future like EK did at one time.


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