Qantas Adds Three New Routes From Canberra

Qantas is adding more direct services from Australia’s national capital, Canberra. Hot on the heels of launching direct services to the Gold Coast, Qantas is now launching new services from Canberra to the Sunshine Coast, Hobart, and Cairns.

Qantas has announced three new routes from Canberra. Photo: Getty Images

A rare degree of love for Canberra from Qantas

The flights offer a rare degree of connectivity for Canberra residents, with the bulk of departures from Canberra Airport usually to either Sydney or Melbourne. However, it may be a case of use these new routes while you can. Once flying gets back to normal in Australia, Qantas is likely to drop these routes as quickly as they ramped them up – only with less fanfare.

With internal border closures in Australia still hindering Qantas’ ability to resume normal domestic services, some previously ignored routes are opening as Qantas works to get its planes and employees back in the air. One of the odder outcomes of this is that Canberra, Australia’s eighth business domestic airport in 2019 with 3,154,400 passenger movements, is getting an unusual and probably fleeting degree of love from Qantas.

From November 19, Qantas will operate Boeing 717s on the Canberra – Sunshine Coast route thrice weekly. Two days later, Qantas will start flying the same aircraft type on the Canberra – Cairns route twice a week. Finally, on December 4, Qantas will start flying between Canberra and Hobart three times a week, also using the Boeing 717.

This follows Qantas launching four return services a week between Canberra and the Gold Coast in September.

“We’ve taken a fresh look at our network, creating new direct services, which were previously only available by connecting via another city,” says Qantas Executive, Andrew David.

Qantas will use Boeing 717s on these new routes. Photo: Qantas

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Is this a case of moving to squash the little guys?

That’s a slight fudge around the edges by Mr David. Virgin Australia has long flown directly between Canberra and the Gold Coast and is currently on the route.

There are also a couple of smaller airlines now on the Canberra – Sunshine Coast and Canberra – Hobart routes. Alliance Airlines (20% owned by Qantas) recently started flying between Canberra and the Sunshine Coast, a toney holiday hotspot just north of Brisbane. Link Airways (formerly known as FlyCorporate) recently launched turboprop flights between Canberra and Hobart.

Link Airways, in particular, is a small commuter airline and highly vulnerable to market incursions by larger, better-resourced airlines. There’s been some chat that this isn’t a case of Qantas wanting to serve Canberra better. Rather, it could be a case of Qantas wanting to assert its market dominance and squash any small fry airlines getting ideas above their station.

It’s unlikely the Link Airways service will survive with Qantas throwing their Boeing 717s on the run down to Hobart.

Is Qantas more interested in squashing competition or serving Canberra better? Photo: Sheba-Also via Wikimedia Commons

That route is particularly interesting because it’s a direct link between two smaller capital cities with a reasonable amount of government and public service traffic on it. Since time immemorial, Qantas has been perfectly happy funneling those passengers via Melbourne. Now Qantas wants to save those same passengers “travel time.”

Of course, Qantas doesn’t see it that way. They say these new routes are great news for travelers. And they are, for as long as they last. When internal borders re-open, and domestic flying gets back to usual for Qantas, how long these new routes will stay up and running for is an open question