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Singapore Airlines is “pleased” with the number of passengers flying in and out of Canberra although a federal government report has revealed lots of empty seats on its first flights.
A report into international airline activity in September by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development showed more than 3200 people flew in and out of Canberra after the Capital Express route launched on September 21.
But while the first flight that touched down was 95 per cent full, analysis has shown the six flights from Wellington to Canberra had an average of 94 seats occupied.
Flights from Singapore to Canberra fared a little better, with an average of 142 seats occupied per flight.
The Boeing 777-200 can carry up to 266 passengers, which includes 38 business class seats and 228 economy seats.
However these figures do not take into account traffic carried via Canberra between Singapore and Wellington, a spokesman from the Department of Infrastructure noted.
The carrier wasn’t fussed by the low numbers either, Singapore Airlines ACT manager, Tan Chin Yu said.
“We have been encouraged by the support from the local community since we went on sale in January and remain pleased with the number of customers choosing to travel on the new service, both to Singapore and beyond with direct connections to UK/Europe,” he said.
“There has been a good mix of business and leisure travellers in both the business and economy class cabins.”
The data also revealed around a quarter more people flew out of Canberra than into the capital on the first six flights.
The international airline activity showed there were 1421 inbound passengers to Canberra in September compared to 1784 outbound passengers.
Flying out of Canberra, flights to Wellington had an average occupancy of 142 passengers. Flights to Singapore had an average of 181 passengers.
The report came as the ACT recorded a 45.5 per cent swing in visitors from SIngapore and a 25.5 per cent spike in visitation from New Zealand.
New Zealand and Singapore are now respectively fourth and fifth on the list of the ACT’s top international markets, behind China, the UK and the US.
Singapore tourists now make up 5 per cent of the ACT’s international market while New Zealand tourism accounts for 8.6 per cent.
A record 206,915 people visited the ACT in the year to September 30, up 11.2 per cent on the previous year. Visitors spent a record $432 million in the capital, a surge of 13.4 per cent.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the visitor reporting period ended in September and covered only nine days of international flights, but the numbers boded well for the future.
“The latest results reflect the ACT Government’s commitment to growing the visitor economy to $2.5 billion by 2020. VisitCanberra’s One Good Thing After Another marketing platform and enhanced travel trade engagement are among the activities taking place in addition to the cooperative work with Singapore Airlines,” Mr Barr said.
Last week Qatar Airways announced it would be the second international carrier to fly into Canberra, opening up another gateway into Europe and vice versa.
The decision sparked excitement within Canberra’s business community that direct flights could help bring in more tourists during the soft summer trading period and that more airlines could soon follow suit.
But Air New Zealand has hosed down speculation the airline could be the next to fly into Canberra.
“Air New Zealand is constantly assessing its route network however we don’t have any current plans to operate flights to Canberra,” a spokeswoman said.
Emirates and Etihad Airways also shot down suggestions they could be next.