Competition from Virgin Blue and Tiger boosts traffic on Canberra airport’s two busiest routes; Qantas still operates over 60% of seats

While there are currently no international flights out of Australia’s Capital, domestic growth at Canberra airport has been on the rise in the last year – despite Canberra being the smaller relation compared with either Melbourne or Sydney. In fact, it was because neither Melbourne nor Sydney could tolerate the idea of the other being the capital that it was decided to create a new city, between the two, which would serve that purpose. The site that is now Canberra was selected in 1908 and the government moved there in 1927.

Image: Taking off
We are grateful to our colleague Paul Sadler of Australian Aviation Magazine who took these great pictures of Virgin Blue’s Embraer “Capital Jet” service leaving yesterday for Sydney.

Ranked only 8th among Australian airports

With just under three million passengers in the last 12 months Canberra airport ranks as only the 8th busiest in the country.

Chart: Canberra airport traffic 1997/98-2007/08
Note: 97/98 represents period from July 97 to June 98 etc.

Traffic growth during the last 12 months has averaged 7.6%. Only eight domestic destinations are served from the airport by four airlines. Weekly departures on each route for each airline are summarised below.

Route Qantas Virgin Blue Tiger Brindabella
Melbourne 69 42 14
Sydney 149 49
Brisbane 35 35
Adelaide 12 7
Perth 7
Gold Coast 7
Newcastle 16
Albury 10
Source: OAG Max for w/c 1 Dec 2008

Image: Canberra’s weekly direct servicesQantas has around 64% of total scheduled seat capacity with Virgin Blue having a 30% share. For the year ending 31 October 2008 traffic to and from Melbourne was just over one million passengers (up 8.8%) with Sydney flights generating 937,000 passengers (up 11.2%). Brisbane traffic was unchanged at just over 600,000 passengers while demand to and from Adelaide was down 4% to just under 200,000 passengers.

There are currently no international scheduled services though there are frequent foreign charters bringing politicians for meetings.

Map: Location Map
We know there is a new terminal scheduled to open in 2010…curiously can’t obtain any pictures of what it will look like.

Tiger arrives on Valentine’s Day

Tiger Airways began flights from its Melbourne base to Canberra on 14 February 2008, initially with daily flights. However, from 11 August a second daily flight was added which has helped boost passenger numbers on the route during September and October by some 15%-20%. So far the airline has not revealed plans to link Canberra to its second Australian base in Adelaide which opens in March.

Image: Virgin
Here’s proof you can grow a market in recession: While growth on the Canberra-Sydney route was just 3.6% in 2007 (when it was a Qantas monopoly and the economy was booming) traffic grew over 14% in 2008 after Virgin Blue started its Sydney service in February, and 20% in September and October.
Photo: Paul Sadler/Australian Aviation Magazine

Virgin breaks Qantas monopoly on Sydney flights

Last February Virgin Blue began operating eight daily flights to Sydney using its new Embraer E190s. This broke the monopoly that Qantas had previously enjoyed on the route. While growth on the route was just 3.6% in 2007, so far in 2008 traffic has grown by 14.1%. In September and October traffic was up 20% compared to the previous year. Virgin now has around 25% of the market in terms of frequency.
Virgin Blue also started a new destination from Canberra last year when it began daily services to the Gold Coast on 4 March. This route is also served by the Embraer jets.


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