Singapore air travel bubble with Hong Kong to start Nov 22

by BLOOMBERG / pic by AFP

HONG KONG and Singapore will start an air travel bubble that will replace quarantine with Covid-19 testing from Nov 22, officials said in separate media briefings Wednesday.

There will be several flights a week on Singapore Airlines Ltd. and Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. from that date, rising to daily from Dec 7. A maximum of 200 people will be permitted on each flight and details of the arrangement, released nearly a month after the two Asian hubs first announced they’d reopen their borders to one another, will be reviewed after one month. Singapore Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung said at a news briefing that this was the first travel bubble of its type and may be used as a template for other countries, if successful.

The travel bubble will help ensure a brighter future for the city-state’s Changi Airport and Singapore Airlines, he said. Travel bubbles are seen as key to reopening borders ahead of the rollout of an effective and internationally recognized vaccine. But they’ve been hard to put into practice as the coronavirus continues to spread or flare again in much of the world. Cases globally have surpassed 51 million while deaths are nearing 1.3 million.

Even the Singapore-Hong Kong arrangement comes with a long list of requirements and some restrictions. Ong said the waiting time for a Covid test would likely be about four hours and fares would be a commercial decision for the two airlines.

“I suspect travelers might well be quite careful in the beginning before they gradually become more confident,” Ong said. “I suspect that many Singaoreans and Hong Kongers will take a wait-and-see attitude until after awhile you can do one test less perhaps.”

Medical Costs

Flying on the travel bubble between the two cities will also require a degree of paperwork. Tests should be taken within 72 hours prior to departure and applications for travel approval should be done online at least seven days ahead of time. Should travelers become Covid positive in either city, they would need to bear the full cost of any medical treatment provided to them. Read more: Here’s the Flight Schedule for Hong Kong-Singapore Travel Bubble

Shares in Singapore Airlines dipped after the announcement, down 0.5%. Cathay slipped 0.3%. Both carriers rose sharply on Tuesday after a study showing a vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE protects most people from the coronavirus.