SINGAPORE Airlines is confident the affluent residents of Canberra and Wellington will vote with their feet and allow it to boost its historic new “Capital Express” service to Australia and New Zealand to daily flights.The airline launched the service on Tuesday with a late-night flight from Singapore waved away by diplomates from both countries during a ceremony at a Changi Airport departure gate.The four times weekly Boeing 777-200 service, sporting 38 angled lie flat business seats and 228 in economy, is the first new route to be launched to Australia by the Singaporean carrier for almost three decades. It also marks the first regularly scheduled international services to the Australian capital, the announcement of which was warmly welcomed by residents.Airline and airport executives are now hoping the residents of both capitals will convert that enthusiasm to patronage.“I think Wellington has always been a big contributor to revenue from New Zealand, it’s obviously a premium market, as is Canberra,’’ said Singapore Airlines senior vice president sales and marketing Campbell Wilson. “And they were really markets we couldn’t serve alone, either for physical reasons, in the case of Wellington, or economic reasons in the case of both.“So with the maturity of the market, with the development in Canberra airport, that really presented a perfect opportunity to serve two obvious ‘next’ destinations and hopefully in an economically viable way.’’Wilson said it had always been the airline’s vision to move to daily flights but it would wait to see how the economics turned out first.“It’s step by step,’’ he said. “I think we’d like to go daily but four times a week is a good start.’’The airline is launching the service at a time when competition on international routes is fierce and fares are at startling lows on European routes with rival Malaysia Airlines this week unveiling $1277 return fare from Sydney.But fuel prices were also low, Wilson said.“Clearly, competition and capacity coming into a market has a negative effect on yields but low yields have a positive effect on demand, they are stimulatory,’’ he said. “And in this particular case we are serving markets that are very, very poorly served at the moment so we feel there’s both inbound potential and certainly outbound demand that will appreciate the non-stop or more simple service that this will provide.“So we’re quite confident. Yes, it’s a risk to be a first mover but there are also advantages to being a first mover.’’The flight leaves Singapore at 11pm and arrives in Canberra about 8.35am before continuing on to Wellington to land about 3.05pm. It heads back to Canberra at 8.15pm, arriving at 10.05pm, before leaving for Singapore at 11.30 pm to arrive at 5.50am the next day.The service marks a personal milestone for Canberra Airport chairman Terry Snow who has been trying to attract regular international services for years and worked with government and tourism agencies to make it happen.“We’ve been chipping away for 18 and half years,’’ Snow said at the departure gate. “We built a brand new terminal … and the crowning grace is, of course, international flights, particularly through Asia. That’s the big emphasis for Australia, building our relationship with Asia, and Singapore Airlines is the ideal partner to do that.“They have 101 destinations throughout the world, so it’s great gateway for Canberra, and it’s a stroke of genius by Singapore Airlines to put Wellington with us.’’Snow is confident Canberra residents will get behind the new service, noting that the “dysfunctional travel’’ they normally endure through Sydney provides a big incentive for people to fly direct from the Aussie capital.He believed Singapore would get enough passengers to warrant increasing its service and said he was looking forward to low-cost international carriers also flying in and boosting tourism.“This is something again where we can work in partnership with Wellington,’’ he said. “I think it’s great we’ve got this template to work from.’’Asked with the airport was talking to other carriers about international services after Singapore has broken the ice, Snow said: “We are speaking to a number of them but this process can take years, as you know.“They have an expression in Asia that the Chinese love to be second.’’Singapore will codeshare with alliance partner Virgin Australia on the Canberra-Singapore flights, giving Virgin customers another option to earn frequent flyer points and status credits on journeys to Europe. The airlines’ wide-ranging partnership gives Singapore 53 codeshare destinations in Australia and the South Pacific.Virgin will provide lounge facilities to Singapore’s Canberra passengers but the fact the lounge is not in the international section of the terminal means it will not be available to passengers transiting between Wellington and Singapore. Singapore regional vice president Tan Tiow Kor said the airline would liaise with Virgin to ensure premium passengers had ample time to clear customs and immigration before boarding their flight.Virgin had also agreed to extend the opening hours of the of the lounge to accommodate the flight, Tan said.The new Canberra service adds another route to a network in Australia that includes Singapore Airlines flights to Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney and flights by full-service subsidiary SilkAir to Darwin and Cairns.Steve Creedy flew to Singapore and Wellington courtesy of Singapore Airlines.