Initially scheduled for October 1st, the return of Qatar Airways to Canberra Airport was pushed back to December, and it would also mark the comeback of international flights to the Australian airport. However, the highly-anticipated event is hitting the brakes a second time as Qatar Airways pushes its touch down to April 1st next year.
The Gulf carrier was expected to return with a once-daily flight service between Doha and Canberra via a short stopover in Melbourne. Flights from Doha were scheduled to arrive in Canberra a 00:50 before departing back home to Doha at around 14:30, and operating these flights would have been the airline’s Boeing 777s. These flights certainly aren’t happening anytime soon.
Canberra Airport remains unconnected internationally
Sadly, the postponement is not an early April Fool’s joke. Similar to the reasoning behind the first delay, Qatar Airways cites operational reasons for the second delay, such as a ground handling issue with the Australian Border Force. Regardless of the reason, the blow to the comeback of the oneworld alliance member airline was enough to disappoint several passengers.
December involves Australia’s summer holiday break, and passengers were looking forward to enjoying their much-needed vacation with Qatar Airways. Unfortunately, the postponement has left several passengers stranded, with some suggesting that they were asked to rebook a different Australian departure at their own expense.
The absence of Qatar Airways’ presence in December also means that Canberra Airport remains unconnected internationally until the airline returns in April. Still, the Head of Aviation at Canberra Airport, Michael Thompson, remains optimistic and continues emphasizing that the announcement is simply a postponement and not a cancelation, as he said:
“We know Qatar Airways is committed to Canberra and how important it is for them to connect to the Nation’s Capital and the seat of government. We look forward to their restart on April 1st, alongside the resumption of international flight services to our city.”
Photo: Qatar Airways
Finding other international opportunities
Besides Qatar Airways, Thompson has been working to secure other international flight services and has been discussing with several airlines that used to operate out of Canberra Airport to entice them to make an awaited comeback.
Thompson hopes to connect Canberra Airport with the South Pacific and the Middle East by mid-2023, and he believes that the airport can nail this timeline. Especially since Fiji Airways is about to start flight services into Vancouver, and Canberra Airport hopes to be used as a stopover for the Vancouver flight service or other Fiji flights to the US and Canada, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Thompson also seeks to connect the airport to New Zealand but acknowledges that this would take a more extended timeline of at least 18 months or a full two years. The slight lack of optimism comes as Air New Zealand faces operational constraints of aircraft and flight crew availability.
Work is also underway to attract Singapore Airlines to return to Canberra, a direct route suspended in 2020 after having operated four-times weekly flights since 2016. Surprisingly, the last Singapore Airlines flight to Canberra Airport marked the last direct international flight out of the national capital after being the first to offer regular international flights to Canberra since 2004.
The route suspension was devastating, given the airline’s rich history with Canberra Airport. But what was more devastating was the flag carrier making it known that even once the pandemic had eased, the route would not be resumed as it was already lacking adequate demand before the onset of the pandemic.
Additionally, even if Singapore Airlines wanted to try out the route another time, Thompson acknowledges that it faces the hurdle of recruiting and training more employees to expand its operations. He also believes the airline would want to wait until other markets have returned to pre-pandemic levels before expanding.
Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying
The situation at Canberra Airport does seem truly unfortunate as the lack of international flights is a massive inconvenience to passengers and is an economic downside for the national capital city. Hopefully, the discussions with other airlines will work out to see the anticipated return of old routes or perhaps the launch of new routes to connect Canberra to the rest of the world.
What do you think of the situation revolving around Canberra Airport? Do you think Qatar Airways will stick to its April 1st return? Let us know in the comments below.
- IATA/ICAO Code:
- Airline Type:
- Full Service Carrier
- Doha Hamad International Airport
- Year Founded:
- Akbar Al Baker