SINGAPORE (Dow Jones)--Singapore Transport Minister Yeo Cheow Tong has attacked Australia's decision to block Singapore Airlines Ltd. (S55.SG) from the Sydney-Los Angeles route, saying Canberra is taking warm bilateral ties with the city-state for granted.
The Australian government Tuesday rejected SIA's application to fly the lucrative route between Australia and the U.S. West Coast and signaled the decision will stand for several more years. SIA has been seeking access to the route, which is dominated by Australian flag carrier Qantas Airways Ltd. (QAN.AU), for a decade.
"I have always held Australia in high regard as a close bilateral partner. Thus, I am naturally very disappointed with this decision, especially after more than 10 years of protracted discussions," Yeo said in a statement released late Tuesday evening.
"Singapore has also been more than generous in facilitating the growth of Australian carriers to and beyond Singapore.
"It is disheartening to see that they have taken this and the warmth in our bilateral relationship for granted," he said.
Echoing Yeo's comments, the Ministry of Transport said the decision is inconsistent with many signals from Australian leaders in past discussions that the issue would be resolved within a reasonable timeframe.
The ministry said Singapore has "more than fulfilled" its commitment to open skies with Australia by granting fifth freedom traffic rights to Australian carriers.
Fifth freedom rights allow an airline to take passengers to one destination where more passengers can be picked up before flying on to another location.
Granting these rights has allowed Qantas to grow its operations in Singapore to be second only to its home base, while Jetstar Asia, which is part owned by Qantas, also operates out of Singapore in competition with local carriers, the ministry said.
"It would seem these benefits which Australia is enjoying have been taken for granted."