Qatar Airways commits to Canberra
A fifth destination in Australia was added to Qatar Airways’ ever-expanding global network, with the first scheduled commercial service from the Middle East to Canberra landing on 12 April, albeit via Sydney. Qatar Airways is utilising its long-range workhorse, the Boeing 777-300ER on the daily route, an aircraft configured with 358 seats spread across two classes.
The inaugural service featured a 777 equipped with Qatar Airways’ Business class Qsuite, a product Qatar Airways markets as perfect for a private business meetings or family gathering for four people in the sky, and featuring sliding privacy doors and seats that can be converted to a double bed. The same aircraft will be utilised on the Canberra route from June.
For a route that was first revealed 14 months ahead of launch, you would suspect Qatar Airways would be disappointed with only a handful of seats in both classes occupied by paying passengers on the sector between Sydney and Canberra. travelBulletin, travelling as a guest of the airline, observed between 30-40 passengers coming off the aircraft clearing Customs at Canberra Airport on day two of the operation. The return flight to Sydney the same day had just six Business class passengers and 15 in Economy, cabin crew disclosed.
However Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker admitted the Canberra service could take up to 12 months to gain its feet.
“When Qatar Airways launches a route, it’s a long-term investment. If I was coming to Canberra because I wanted to make money in the first month or year, it’s not going to happen. This is a long-term investment and commitment to a destination,” Al Baker said after launching the route.
“When Qatar Airways launches a route, it’s a long-term investment. If I was coming to Canberra because I wanted to make money in the first month or year, it’s not going to happen”
Qatar Airways senior manager — Australasia, Adam Radwanski, told travelBulletin support from the Australian travel trade would be crucial to help fill seats out of Canberra. Already, Qatar Airways is working with tourist boards and inbound operators to inspire them to develop multi-city itineraries that include Canberra in their Australian programs.
“That obviously cannot be done overnight. It’s more of a process. We’ve seen it in other markets that we’ve started, and a good example is Adelaide. When we were operating for a couple of months as five weekly, and since the 1st December to a daily flight. Adelaide has become more popular through our travel network and we are very confident it will be the same for Canberra,” Radwanski explained.
“Adelaide has become more popular through our travel network and we are very confident it will be the same for Canberra”
He said the airline had engaged heavily with the trade in Canberra, hosting a series of famils to Doha so they were familiar with the destination as a stopover hub to Europe and beyond.
“Trade is for us here in Australia, for me and my team, an absolutely critical and integral part of our strategy… I think we’ll be very well placed here to be successful here in the coming months,” Radwinski added.
Al Baker confirmed there was no immediate plan to fly into Canberra directly from Doha (due to the inadequate runway length), but the real gain for Qatar Airways is the addition of a second daily frequency into and out of Sydney. If the 30-minute flight between Sydney and Canberra (and vice versa) has low passenger counts, it will mean more revenue out of Sydneysiders, who at current fare levels are paying about $300 more than Canberrans on a return QR flight to Europe.
Al Baker continues to hold his cards close to his chest on which other Australian destination(s) he will commit to, however he openly stated it would not be a regional city, realistically limiting his next options to either Brisbane or Darwin.
Qatar Airways’ new Canberra route complements its long-standing service to Melbourne and Perth, and more recent additions of Sydney and Adelaide.