Singapore Airlines is reducing its footprint in Australia and New Zealand. The airline dramatically cut its services into the region earlier this year. On Monday, Singapore Airlines confirmed that it would not return to Canberra and Wellington. It’s a blow to the two cities and their airports. Both are smaller cities, and even in good times they struggle to attract international services.
Singapore Airlines services cut after just four years
The services to both cities have operated since September 2016. Initially, the route was a four times weekly Singapore-Canberra-Wellington-Canberra-Singapore service using 266-seat Boeing 777-200 aircraft. It was an adventurous move by Singapore Airlines. There was no direct link between the capital cities of Australia and New Zealand even though there was a reasonable amount of passenger traffic between the two cities.
But the route struggled. Convincing jet setting public servants on both sides of the Tasman Sea to give Singapore Airlines a go proved too big an ask. Within two years, the service between Canberra and Wellington quietly got dropped.
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To its credit, Singapore Airlines didn’t quit the two cities. Rather it rejigged its services. At the time, Singapore Airlines’ regional vice-president Philip Goh said,
“To really grow the services for each of the points, we think it’s better for them to have their separate growth paths and because also the traffic path on both flights are quite different, the new connection windows are tailored to serve the market well.”
Singapore Airlines’ Melbourne-Wellington flights are a hit with locals
In its place, Singapore Airlines began operating a daily Singapore-Sydney-Canberra-Singapore service. The overnight flight would land in Singapore early in the morning, allowing fast onward connections to Europe and elsewhere in Asia.
Wellington also kept its service, only this time it went via Melbourne. The idea was this service would pick up commercial rather than government traffic in both directions out of Melbourne. The fifth freedom flight between Melbourne and Wellington soon found a small but loyal following.
Last year, Singapore Airlines upgraded the aircraft on the Wellington run to an A350-900. Early this year, the airline planned to increase frequency to five times a week. The service proved a big hit with travelers flying between Melbourne and Wellington. However, it seems there were just not enough of them to convince Singapore Airlines to keep the service.
The flight was the only twin-aisle jet regularly flying into Wellington. Singapore Airlines was also the only airline offering lie-flat business class seats and premium economy seats into Wellington.
Singapore Airlines does not see traffic on these two routes recovering soon
Amid a general reduction in services to Australia and New Zealand, the flights to both Canberra and Wellington were suspended earlier this year. But, on Monday, Singapore Airlines confirmed neither flight would resume. In a statement provided to Simple Flying, a Singapore Airlines spokesperson said;
“Unfortunately, the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation industry has led to Singapore Airlines having to make the very difficult decision to (permanently) suspend services to Canberra and Wellington. This decision will also require us to close both stations in the coming months.”
Singapore Airlines said the decision was difficult but necessary, adding they expect travel demand to remain subdued for some time.
Qatar Airways is now the sole international airline flying into Canberra. However, Qatar Airways has temporarily halted those flights. In Wellington, Air New Zealand, Qantas, and Fiji Airways usually offer international flights. But, no international services run out of Wellington right now.
In the future, Singapore Airlines will use Star Alliance partner Air New Zealand to connect their passengers out of Wellington through either Christchurch or Auckland. Canberra passengers will get directed onto Virgin Australia flights and transferred onto Singapore Airlines in Sydney or Melbourne. Despite quitting both cities, Singapore Airlines says they plan to keep flying to Australia and New Zealand for the long-haul.
“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.”