Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble to start on Nov 22
More places can be added to air travel bubble scheme if this is successful: Ong Ye Kung
His father's birthday recently was a bittersweet affair for Mr Sam Wu as the family had to celebrate it apart.
This time last year, he and his parents were in Hong Kong to celebrate the occasion with his sister and his nieces who live there, but travel restrictions due to Covid-19 meant the family have not reunited since then.
So when it was announced yesterday that Singapore travellers will be able to go to Hong Kong for leisure from Nov 22, as part of an air travel bubble arrangement between the two cities, Mr Wu and his parents booked flights despite the hassle of multiple swab tests, which could cost them a total of $600 each.
Said Mr Wu, a tertiary institution administrator in his 40s: "For me, money is no object if you get to see your loved ones."
"There are risks of catching Covid-19. Flights could be suspended again. But because of family, we are willing to take these risks," he added.
Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said yesterday the air travel bubble is the first of its kind in the world.
"It is a careful, cautious step forward, but I think a very important step," he added.
Under the bilateral arrangement, travellers will take Covid-19 tests in lieu of quarantine or stay-home notices, and they must use designated flights operated by Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Cathay Pacific.
The hope, Mr Ong said, is to add a third or fourth place to the bubble if it proves successful.
"There are quite a number of places where they have very successfully controlled the virus... I hope this can be a template and reference point for them."
Mr Conrad Clifford, the International Air Transport Association's regional vice-president for Asia- Pacific, said the travel bubble is a step towards rebooting international air travel in the region, with passenger demand in September 95 per cent lower than the same period last year.
Mr Clifford said: "Replacing quarantine measures with Covid-19 testing will help in reopening borders, restoring connectivity that jobs and economies depend on, and giving passengers confidence to travel."
Travel agencies said they have been getting more inquiries about trips to Hong Kong. But, while the air travel bubble is some light at the end of the tunnel for EU Asia Holidays managing director Ong Hanjie, he does not expect a surge in bookings yet.
Some agencies, such as Chan Brothers Travel and ASA Holidays, are cautiously optimistic and have new packages and offerings in the works.
Fares for some designated air travel bubble flights have already gone up. Mr Wu said return economy tickets on SIA for his dates of travel now cost $1,102, up from the $678 he paid.
Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore director-general Kevin Shum said the pricing of air travel bubble flights is a commercial decision by the airlines.
What you need to know about Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble
The air travel bubble (ATB) between Singapore and Hong Kong is set to kick off from Nov 22, allowing leisure travel between the two places.
Who is eligible?
Any person who has remained in either Singapore or Hong Kong for 14 consecutive days before flying. Work permit and S-Pass holders working in the construction, marine shipyard or process sectors in Singapore are excluded.
What flights are available?
From Nov 22, there will be one designated ATB flight daily into each city with a quota of 200 travellers a flight. This will be increased to two flights a day from Dec 7.
How will travellers be tested?
All travellers will be required to test negative on a Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test 72 hours before their scheduled departure in either city.
- Singapore to Hong Kong
Travellers need to apply for approval to take the PCR test at least seven days before departure. They will need a confirmed flight ticket to Hong Kong to apply to take the test (go.gov.sg/caaspdt). Applications are not required from Dec 1.
On approval via e-mail, travellers can take their test at a recognised clinic or testing centre (https://safetravel.ica.gov.sg/pdf/clinic_listing_27102020.pdf)
- Hong Kong to Singapore
Travellers can take their test at recognised clinics (coronavirus.gov.hk/pdf/List_of_recognised_laboratories.pdf).
Pre-departure tests taken in Singapore or tests taken on arrival in Hong Kong can be used if still within the 72-hour window.
What must be done in destination city?
All travellers arriving in Hong Kong are required to take a Covid-19 test on arrival at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA). They will have to book and pay for their tests before departing from Singapore.
They must remain inside HKIA until their results are confirmed. This is expected to take about four hours.
Travellers can refer to Hong Kong's dedicated ATB website for more information: tourism.gov.hk/travelbubble
What if travellers fall ill?
If travellers become infected with Covid-19, they will have to bear the full costs of any medical treatment, subject to the policies of the respective cities.
What if the rate of infection increases because of the ATB?
If the average number of daily unlinked cases over a seven-day period rises to more than five in either Singapore or Hong Kong, the ATB will be suspended for two weeks.
It will resume if the number falls below five on the last day of the suspension period.
Scoot to operate non-bubble flights between Singapore and Hong Kong
From Nov 22, budget carrier Scoot will operate non-air travel bubble flights between Singapore and Hong Kong within the Singapore Airlines Group.
In a statement yesterday, Singapore Airlines (SIA) said customers with existing bookings but who do not meet the air travel bubble requirements, or are travellers transiting through Singapore or Hong Kong, will have the option to be re-accommodated on Scoot instead.
These customers will be notified via SMS, e-mail or through the SingaporeAir mobile app.
Customer service agents will also reach out to those who booked directly with SIA and are travelling between Nov 22 and Jan 31 next year.
Those travelling on Scoot flights must meet the entry requirements for Singapore or Hong Kong and will have to serve either a stay-home notice or quarantine.
SIA customers who choose to be re-accommodated will receive baggage allowance and meals on board.
To be eligible for travel under the air travel bubble, passengers must have stayed in either Singapore or Hong Kong for 14 consecutive days before departure.
Work permit and S-Pass holders working in the construction, marine shipyard or process sectors in Singapore are ineligible.
SIA will operate designated air travel bubble flights carrying only passengers who meet these requirements.