The inaugural air travel bubble (ATB) flight between Singapore and Hong Kong will kick off on November 22, allowing for leisure travel between the two places without the need for quarantine.
This marks the world’s first air travel bubble arrangement, after the pandemic forced the implementation of border restrictions globally.
Under the ATB, travellers between Singapore and Hong Kong will be subject to Covid-19 tests, in lieu of quarantine or stay-home notice. There will be no restrictions on the purpose of travel and no requirement for a controlled itinerary or sponsorship.
As a start, there will be one flight a day into each city, capped at 200 travellers per flight. This will be increased to two flights a day into each city from December 7. Travellers from both cities must travel on designated flights on Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Cathay Pacific.
If the Covid-19 situation deteriorates in either city, the travel bubble arrangements will be suspended, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore said in a statement on Wednesday.
Travellers must also meet the eligibility criteria and adhere to the prevailing border control measures and public health requirements of both cities, it added. More information is available here.
Transport minister Ong Ye Kung said: “The Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble enables us to achieve two objectives at the same time – open up our borders in a controlled manner, while maintaining safety in our societies. While we may be starting small, this is an important step forward… It will be a useful reference for other countries and regions that have controlled the epidemic, and are contemplating opening their borders.”
The inaugural ATB flight from Singapore, SQ890, will depart on 22 November; while the inaugural ATB flight from Hong Kong, SQ891, will depart on 23 November, according to an SIA press release.
Customers who have existing bookings but do not meet the ATB requirements, or are travellers transiting through Singapore or Hong Kong and therefore not eligible for ATB flights, will have the option to be reaccommodated on SIA’s low-cost subsidiary Scoot instead.
However, passengers travelling on Scoot’s non-ATB flights must meet the entry requirements for Singapore or Hong Kong, and will have to serve either a stay-home notice or a quarantine.
All travellers are required to take a Covid-19 swab test 72 hours before the scheduled departure time of their designated ATB flight and obtain a negative test result. Upon arrival in Hong Kong, travellers from Singapore are required to take a second Covid-19 test, and must remain in the airport until their results are out. Travellers from Hong Kong arriving in Singapore are not subjected to another round of testing.
Conrad Clifford, IATA’s regional vice president for Asia Pacific, welcomed the impending start of the Hong Kong-Singapore ATB.
He said: “International air travel in Asia-Pacific is practically non-existent. Our latest figures for September show passenger demand at about 95 per cent below the same period last year. The Hong Kong-Singapore air travel bubble, though starting small, is a step in the right direction to reboot international travel in the region. We look forward to seeing Hong Kong and Singapore expand this arrangement with other destinations, and for other governments to adopt a similar approach.
“What is significant is that quarantine measures have been lifted for any travel between Hong Kong and Singapore, and is not limited to just business or essential travel. Replacing quarantine measures with Covid-19 testing will help in reopening borders, restore connectivity that jobs and the economy depend on, and give passengers confidence to travel.
“Standards and technological solutions will also be needed to facilitate the management, communication and verification of test results by the multiple stakeholders involved in the travel process. This is something we are working on with the parties in Hong Kong and Singapore.”