Qatar Airways will commence daily Boeing 777 flights to Canberra, of all places, from 12 February 2018. The new route looks like a big win for Canberra, but the real winner is Sydney.

The Canberra-Doha flights will operate via Sydney in both directions, meaning that Sydney receives a second daily direct flight to Doha. Meanwhile, Canberra passengers still have to fly via Sydney – albeit on a much nicer aircraft than the turboprops that usually serve the Canberra-Sydney route.

Whilst CBR airport wants to count this as a “win”, I hardly see it as such. All it is is a tag flight which arrives / departs from SYD T1. Yes no terminal transfer for us CBR’ns, but it’s that final hop after a long haul is the thing we hate.

QR906 will depart Doha at 08:10, arriving in Sydney early the next morning. The Boeing 777-300ER then has a 70-minute layover in Sydney before continuing to Canberra for a 08:25 arrival. The return flight QR907 departs Canberra at 13:45 for Sydney, then proceeds onwards to Doha where it arrives at 22:30 on the same day.

It’s expected that most passengers on the Doha-Canberra flights will be on board only between Doha and Sydney. But Qatar Airways will not be allowed to carry passengers that just want to fly between Sydney and Canberra. Only passengers continuing to/from Doha will be allowed on the short domestic tag flight.

Unfortunately, Qatar does not have uplift rights so the flight can’t be booked as a standalone SYD-CBR.

So, why operate the flight? Well, the additional tag flight from Sydney to Canberra allows Qatar Airways to add a second daily service to Sydney, without any changes to the current air services agreement between Australia and Qatar. The bilateral agreement currently allows Qatar Airways to operate up to 21 flights per week to Australia’s four major international airports: Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane. As the Qatari airline already flies daily to Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, it is not allowed to add any more flights to these cities.

But the number of flights to Australian cities outside the four major gateways is not restricted. Indeed, Qatar Airways already flies to Adelaide. By making Sydney a technical stop on a flight that continues to Canberra, the airline is able to get around these restrictions.

Looks to me they are prepared to fly a near empty aircraft between Sydney and Canberra just to get a 2 daily service into Sydney under the current bilateral agreements. I can only assume once the new bilateral agreements is signed, Canberra will be dropped.

Qatar Airways becomes just the second airline to operate international flights to the nation’s capital. Singapore Airlines currently offers the only international flights to the Canberra, flying Singapore-Canberra-Wellington 4 times per week.

Join the discussion HERE.

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]