Revamped Canberra airport courts foreign airlines to boost traffic

Revamped Canberra airport courts foreign airlines to boost traffic

SINGAPORE - Canberra is seeking to beef up international traffic to its newly revamped airport by encouraging carriers such as Singapore Airlines (SIA) to launch direct flights to Australia's capital city.

Canberra Airport was privatised 16 years ago when multi-millionaire Terry Snow bought it from the government. Mr Snow was 46th on Forbes' "Australia's 50 Richest" list this year with a net worth of A$620 million (S$728 million). His son, Stephen Byron, is chief executive of the airport, which predominantly serves domestic flights. The airport recently underwent an over A$1 billion overhaul, enabling its runway to cater to aircraft such as the Boeing 747 and Airbus A380, while it operates round the clock with no curfew.

"To have a successful Boeing 777 service that would operate daily, we need 3,000 passengers a week to fill the aircraft at a 75 per cent load factor," said Mr Byron. "There are already 7,800 people coming from Asia and Europe to Canberra, and from the Canberra region up to Asia and Europe. Already 50 per cent of the market is choosing to use Singapore as a hub, even though they have to go via Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane."

Aside from SIA and Cathay Pacific, the airport has also been courting Emirates and Qantas. Airlines will be offered incentives linked to operating fees at the airport as well as marketing efforts, BT understands. According to reports out of Australia, some A$1.1 million has been set aside under the Cooperative Airline Stimulus Fund, which supports marketing to bring in tourists.

Passenger traffic at the airport is currently three million per annum, although this is set to grow to six million by 2020. Last year, Canberra saw nearly 180,000 international visitors, up 9 per cent from 2013.

Mr Byron told BT the airport sees full-service carriers being a better fit, given the access to business class seats, as Canberra is home to the Australian government and also delivers the highest yielding business traffic in the country. Currently, international travellers will need to transit at other cities such as Melbourne, which can tack on a further five hours to what would otherwise be an eight-hour direct flight.

Canberra Airport will also incorporate a 191-room hotel run by Toga Far East Hotels, a joint venture between Toga Group and Far East Hospitality.

This article was first published on June 21, 2014.
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