After more than a year of anticipation, and a 50-minute delay, the inaugural flight of Qatar Airways touched down in Canberra on Monday morning.
A water cannon salute welcomed the Boeing 777-300 aircraft, marking the start of a new daily route from the capital to Doha via Sydney.
At gate four, crowds gathered by the glass to toast the plane’s arrival while a waiting media pack were served dates and Arabic coffee, a traditional Qatar “energy kick”.
The plane, which seats 358, touched down at 9.25am after a flyover of the city. But by 2pm, it had returned to the sky to begin the almost 18-hour journey to Doha, which includes another brief stopover in Sydney.
Qatar Airways is now the second international carrier flying through the capital, after Singapore Airlines opened Canberra back up to the world in 2016.
Fares to Europe start at $1205 and he said Qatar’s extensive network across the continent would make Greek Island hopping and other travel a lot easier for Canberrans.
“It will give opportunities to explore destinations that otherwise they would struggle to get to with double, triple stops.”
Seating 42 in business class and 316 in economy, the large belly of the 777-300 aircraft would also allow for more freight and export opportunities out of the ACT, Mr Radwanksi said.
Passengers on board Monday’s inaugural flight included Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker and the Australian Ambassador for Qatar, Dr Axel Wabenhorst.
Greeting them at the gate, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the new service would add more than 120,000 seats a year into the Canberra market, and formed part of the government’s broader agenda to make it “easier and cheaper” to get to and from the capital.
Canberra Airport executive chairman Terry Snow said “an airline of this stature” will boost Canberra’s reputation as a leading tourist destination.
Monday’s near-brand new plane also came equipped with the airline’s new business class Qsuite, featuring double beds and adjustable private cabins for up to four people.
“We are very excited to showcase this aircraft here in Canberra, it’s really elevating our business class experience,” Mr Radwanski said.
“It’s something that no other airline has.”
On a tour of the aircraft, media were shown around the spacious new cabins. Lit purple, each seat is fully adjustable, with a retractable privacy screen, amenities and entertainment.
Qsuite will soon become a permanent part of the Canberra route, Mr Radwanksi said, as other planes in the fleet were retro-fitted with the design.
Senior manager of Australasia for Qatar Airways Adam Radwanski said he was excited to take Canberra customers to 150 destinations across Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and was already working with government agencies to simplify their travel.
“This is the home of government in Australia, it’s just been named among the top destinations in the world to visit by Lonely Planet so Canberra is an important destination for us,” Mr Radwanski said.
While Singapore Airlines axed its direct service from Canberra to Wellington this year, the airline has also ramped up flights to Singapore in a new daily service beginning in May. Travellers can fly to 64 destinations through its Changi Airport hub.
Read full originally published story at: canberratimes