Carry on: Qatar adds Auckland, Canberra to global network and more

Business travel news also includes Aircalin's new Airbus aircraft and delivery of Bombardier's first CS300.

Qatar Airways will kick off a major boost to its 150-plus destination network with a new Doha-Auckland service on February 5. In an announcement this week, Qatar has added Canberra to its list of 15 new destinations in 2017-18.

No date has been set for Canberra – Qatar’s fifth Australian destination – and the new link means Qatar will join Singapore Airlines as the only international airlines that fly to the Australian capital.

After Auckland, which will be the world’s longest commercial flight, Qatar will launch services this year to Sarajevo, Bosnia; Skopje, Macedonia; Libreville, Gabon; Nice, France; Chiang Mai, the airline’s fourth destination in Thailand; and Douala, Cameroon.

The newly-announced services, apart from Canberra, are: Dublin, Ireland; Las Vegas, the airline’s 11th destination in the US; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Santiago, Chile; Medan, Kualanamu International Airport, the airline’s third destination in Indonesia; and Tabuk and Yanbu, the ninth and 10th destinations in Saudi Arabia.

Qatar Airways has opened 12 new destinations so far this year, with two more set to join the network in December – Krabi, its third destination in Thailand, on December 6; and the Seychelles on December 12.

Canberra lobbies for Auckland link
Meanwhile, Canberra Airport is looking for a third international airline to provide a direct Canberra-Auckland link and access to routes through to North and South America.  Managing director Stephen Byron told The Australian.newspaper that these airlines, which don't include Air New Zealand, are keen on developing as a key hub for their operations. 

“Auckland is certainly a strategic priority,” he said. “It would give us a stepping stone through to both North and South America," he is quoted as saying.

“The Canberra market has one million people in the catchment and certainly the inbound international tourism has proven to be very strong in response to the introduction of Singapore Airlines. We knew that all airlines would be watching the Singapore service very closely and I suppose that the Qatar announcement is the culmination of that. It’s taken less than 70 days for another carrier to announce they will fly to Canberra.”

Figures just published by Australian authorities show the Canberra-Wellington service attracted 1259 passengers in September, its first month of operation. 

Aircalin adds to fleet

Aircalin, the French-owned New Caledonian airline based in Noumea, has signed an agreement for two A320neo single-aisle and two A330-900 wide-body aircraft. The A320neo engine choice will be made at a later date as will the cabin configuration of both aircraft types. The A320neo will be deployed on existing regional routes to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. The A330neo will boost services to Japan for onward connections and the possible opening of new routes such as to China.

Bombardier delivers first CS300
Montréal-based Bombardier Commercial Aircraft has delivered the first CS300 aircraft to launch operator Air Baltic, based in Riga, Latvia. The CS300 is the larger variant of Bombardier's all-new C Series aircraft, which is designed to carry between 130 and 150 passengers. The maiden commercial flight will take passengers from Riga to Amsterdam on December 14.

Singapore to fly A350 to Houston
Singapore Airlines is planning to deploy its A350-900 aircraft on its Singapore-Manchester-Houston service in 2017. It will replace the B777-300ER and the change comes shortly after Singapore Airlines announced it would be upgrading its Singapore-Manchester service to a non-stop flight – having previously routed through Munich – to complement its new fifth freedom flights between Manchester and Houston.

Singapore-Lufthansa codeshare expanded
Singapore Airlines has expanded its codeshare partnership with Lufthansa Group to more than 20 new European routes on flights operated by Lufthansa and Swiss through three hub airports. They are: Aberdeen, Billund, Birmingham, Bologna, Bucharest, Dublin, Edinburgh, Florence, Gothenburg, Lisbon, Madrid, Porto, Tallinn and Venice transit via Frankfurt; Madrid, Marseille, Nice and Toulouse transit via Munich; and Belgrade, Florence, Lyon, Sofia and Venice transit via Zurich. In addition, Singapore Airlines will add its flights between Singapore and Canberra, Düsseldorf and Wellington to the codeshare. Asia regional carrier Silkair will also progressively introduce new codeshare flights with the Lufthansa Group.

Route news of the week
Fiji Airways is again offering a nonstop flight to Taiwan during Chinese New Year in January/February 2017. The Nadi-Taipei Taoyuan route will use Airbus A330-200 aircraft. Hong Kong Airlines plans a new daily Hong Kong-Vancouver service from June 30. Tigerair Australia will increase its operations from Brisbane, including the introduction of services to Perth and Proserpine. Brisbane-Perth will operate 4-6 weekly from June 1 and Brisbane-Proserpine four times weekly from March 23. Other planned frequency increases are Brisbane-Adelaide to daily from March 25 and 
Brisbane-Cairns to 11 times weekly from March 23.