Canberra stretches Singapore’s patience

November 1, 2009
Singapore Democrats

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Matt O’Sullivan
The Sydney Morning Herald

The Rudd Government has told Singapore Airlines to be patient about its long-harboured aspirations to fly between Australia and the United States.

In the latest chapter in a long-standing lobbying effort, Singapore Airlines’s chief executive, Chew Choon Seng, said he would continue to seek access to a route it has long sought to fly. Because Australia and the US have an open-skies treaty, Singapore Airline’s access hinges on the go-ahead only from the Rudd Government.

“The Rudd Government has been giving us a listening ear but we are still being told to be patient,” he said.

“As for now … the situation from Canberra is that the door is shut. We are still in there asking for a fair play in terms of equal opportunity to fly beyond Australia.”

Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines will be content to watch from the sidelines as Qantas battles V Australia, Delta and United Airlines on the trans-Pacific route.

“At this juncture the Australia-US west coast market is quite well served with the entry of Delta and V Australia,” Mr Chew said. “We will see how that settles, and if the demand continues to be firm and fares start improving again, then we will have interest.”

The Government insists it wants to allow V Australia to establish itself on the route before it considers further access to what had been a cash cow for Qantas.

A spokesman for the Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, said the Government saw no need to change its policy on direct flights between Australia and the US.

”We do not see any need to revisit the situation regarding the trans-Pacific route … because we do not see it as in the national interest,” he said.

The spokesman said Mr Albanese had not talked to Singapore Airlines this year.

Earlier this year Singapore Airlines described the future of Australia’s international aviation policy as ”ambiguous and protectionist”, following the release of the Government’s green paper on aviation.

The green paper has, in effect, again prevented the Singapore flag carrier from competing with Qantas on the trans-Pacific service.

http://www.businessday.com.au/business/canberra-stretches-singapores-patience-20091101-hrlr.html