Singapore Airlines Hopeful of Winning Access to Lucrative Australia-U.S route

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Singapore Airlines' chief executive said Tuesday he was hopeful the carrier would reach an agreement this week with the Australian government to get access to the lucrative route between Australia and the United States.

But a spokesman for Australian Transport Minister John Anderson said no decision has yet been taken on whether to allow the Asian airline to fly the route, which is currently dominated by Australian carrier Qantas.

Anderson and Singapore Airlines' Chew Choon Seng were due to hold talks Wednesday.

Singapore Airlines has long sought an open skies agreement with Australia that would ease air restrictions between the two countries and allow the state-run carrier to compete with Qantas on direct routes across the Pacific Ocean from Australia.

Qantas derives around 15 percent of its net profit from the Australia-U.S. route and controls about 75 percent of market share. Qantas currently shares the trans-Pacific route only with U.S. carrier United Airlines.

Qantas opposes the open skies proposal saying it does not give the Australian carrier reciprocal access to European destinations via Singapore.

In Sydney Tuesday, Chew said he hoped to get ''a reaffirmation of principles and a broad agreement'' on the deal from Anderson during talks scheduled for Wednesday in Canberra.

Chew was at Sydney Airport to unveil a large-scale model of Airbus' new super-jumbo, the A380, which Singapore Airlines will add to its fleet mid-next year. He predicted his airline would be flying between Australia and the United States within 12 to 18 months, and said the A380 would eventually be used to service the route.

A spokesman for Anderson said on customary condition of anonymity that no decision had been made on whether to allow Singapore Airlines to fly the Qantas-dominated route.

Anderson ''doesn't have a firm view on the matter yet and, in the end, it will be a Cabinet decision and he is one member of Cabinet,'' the spokesman said. ''It's too early to give an answer.''

Anderson has previously said a decision will depend on the success of Australia's negotiations with the European Union to get more access for Australian carriers to European cities via Singapore.