The brakes have been put on the long-awaited return of international flights to Canberra Airport.
Qatar Airways has cited “operational reasons” for the two-month delay. The first flight was scheduled for October 1.
Head of Aviation at the airport Michael Thompson has made it clear that this is just a postponement and not a cancellation.
“The delay of the one-day service from Doha to Canberra via Melbourne is unfortunate, but we look forward to their return on December 1 and the restart of international services to Canberra,” he said in a statement.
In the meantime, passengers will have to take connecting flights from Canberra to Melbourne with Qantas and Virgin Australia.
When it resumes, the service will be a daily connection between Doha and Canberra with a short stopover in Melbourne.
Flights from Doha are expected to arrive in Canberra at 12:50 PM and depart Canberra to Doha via Melbourne at 2:30 PM.
Canberra passengers collect their luggage and clear customs and immigration in Canberra.
In July, the return of the flights was announced.
Stephen Byron, CEO of Canberra Airport, said at the time that Qatar’s return to Canberra would give more than a million people living in the Canberra region direct access to Qatar Airways’ global network of more than 150 destinations.
“It also means that travelers from all over the world will have the opportunity to come and experience what Canberra and the surrounding region have to offer,” he said.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr described the airline’s return as the strongest signal that the area’s tourism industry was returning. Qatar Airways first started flights to and from Canberra in 2018.
Canberra Airport has been on a mission to put itself back on the international map after two and a half years of the impact of COVID-19 on the industry.
Work is underway to lure Singapore Airlines back to Canberra, but no deal has been signed.
Earlier this year, Mr Barr led a week-long trade mission to Singapore to the island nation where the topic of resuming flights was raised at nearly every meeting.
“Their biggest challenge, like most airlines, is recruiting and training the additional staff needed to expand their operations,” Barr said.
“This may take a while.”
The Chief Minister noted that a return to near pre-pandemic levels of international travel across other markets would be necessary before flights resumed. He said the airline’s reception was warm and positive.
Original article published by Lottie Twyford on Riotact.