Wellingtonians keen on service

Wellingtonians keen on service

Singapore Airlines’ Capital Express service, linking Wellington for the first time with Singapore via Canberra, is being heralded a game changer.

The inaugural flight arrived at Wellington Airport on Wednesday to a celebration and much fanfare, attended by officials, industry representatives and excited passengers. The flight was ushered in with a water cannon salute and powhiri. Singapore Airlines executive vice president commercial Mak Swee Wah, Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and Wellington Airport CEO Steve Sanderson then made speeches before a cake-cutting ceremony.

Singapore Airlines general manager New Zealand Simon Turcotte, who has driven the project, was at the celebration, and admits pride at having helped bring the service to the capital. ‘Not many get to do this – I feel very privileged.’

Turcotte says the service, running four times a week, connects Wellington to the world through the airline’s Singapore hub. In fact, the flights – to be operated with 266-seat Boeing 777-200 aircraft – will put Wellingtonians in easier reach of more than 100 destinations across 34 countries. The airline is hopeful of attracting a healthy mix of leisure and business travellers to the service, which Turcotte says will operate daily if successful.

Meanwhile, Sanderson described the launch as an historic day for Wellington airport and a major step-change for the city. The new route adds 110,000 seats to the region’s international network, he says, and it will deliver an estimated $95 million additional spend to New Zealand per annum. ‘Already we are seeing new tourism routes open up for the country as a result of this service with Wellington being an entry or exit point,’ Sanderson says.

The service means Singapore Airlines is the first non trans-Tasman carrier to operate from more than two destinations in New Zealand. It started its Auckland service 40 years ago and has been operating for 30 years in Christchurch, where it has recently ramped up flight numbers.

The move also marks the first time the capital cities of Australia and New Zealand have been connected by non-stop flights, and the first time Canberra has had direct international flights since 2004. The flight cuts the time it takes to fly between the two centres from around seven hours to three.

Canberra Airport’s managing director Stephen Byron hopes the link will lead to an influx of New Zealanders in Canberra and boost the relationship between the two cities.

John Conceicao, Singapore Tourism Board’s executive director, international relations and market planning Oceania, is hopeful the service will drive up the number of Kiwi visitors to Singapore too. New Zealand visitor numbers last year reached 127,618 – a 7.5% increase on 2014.

Trade were well represented at the inaugural flight. APX’s Paul Moir, who travelled to Canberra, wished the airline every success. ‘It may take a while for some to get their heads around the Canberra stop, but when they do this will take off.’