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Singapore Airlines to make first direct flights to Canberra

This photograph taken on 4 May 2014 shows a Singapore Airlines (SIA) aircraft approaching Changi International Airport in Singapore Image copyright AFP
Image caption The new route will mark the first time in New Zealand and Australia's histories that their capital cities have been linked by non-stop flights

Singapore Airlines (SIA) has confirmed it is to start flying to Canberra, giving the Australian capital its first regular international flights.

From September, SIA will fly four times a week to Canberra and then on to Wellington, New Zealand's capital.

The Capital Express route marks the first time New Zealand and Australia's capitals have been linked by non-stop flights.

Tickets for the new route will go on sale from 25 January.

Canberra International Airport has been so called for many years.

But its international customs teams have mostly only processed dignitaries or stars on chartered flights by special arrangement.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Dignitaries who have flown directly to or from Canberra on international flights include Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and former prime minister Tony Blair

Among them are Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, US President Barack Obama and actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

Mr DiCaprio used Canberra's airport as a means to celebrate New Year's Eve twice in one year - once in Sydney and then again in Las Vegas, a Canberra Airport spokesperson told the BBC.

Canberra's curfew-free status meant it was the only airport that would allow a chartered flight to leave for an international destination at the appropriate time.

'Reflecting close ties'

Canberra airport was privatised in 1998 when it was purchased by the Capital Airport Group, headed by prominent local businessman Terry Snow.

Mr Snow has long wanted to see the airport become an international one. His group has invested some $2bn Australian dollars ($1.37bn; £968m) in the airport since purchasing it from the Commonwealth.

He said the decision by Singapore Airlines to begin its scheduled flights was "justification for the long-term vision" of the airport.

"As long-term locals committed to the prosperity of the capital region, our campaign to see Canberra become linked directly to the rest of the world has been constant," said Mr Snow.

SIA's new route will add to its existing network in Australia and Virgin Australia will codeshare some of the flights.

"This new service linking Singapore, Canberra and Wellington reflects the close ties between the three countries," said Singapore Airlines boss Goh Choon Phong.

The route, which is subject to statutory approval, will significantly cut travel time between Australia and New Zealand and Asia, and is expected to boost tourism.

However aviation experts have said there is likely only space for one carrier to operate.

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