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Singapore-Hong Kong leisure travel bubble to commence ‘soon’

No quarantine required, but pre-trip Covid-19 tests and booking of ‘dedicated flights’ required if you want to go

In a surprise move, Singapore newly-minted Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung announced on Thursday (15 Oct) that it has confirmed a travel arrangement with Hong Kong to allow ‘general travel’ for residents between both countries.

The most salient point of this agreement is that there will be “no restrictions on travel purpose”, effectively making this the first leisure ‘green lane’ for Singapore and Hong Kong residents, since the COVID-19 closed most borders this year.

Travellers will be subject to Covid-19 PCR testings that are recognised by both governments, but will not need to serve any isolation requirements nor be subjected to movement restrictions under ‘controlled itineraries’. Travellers can also only travel on dedicated flights that only serve travellers under this Air Travel Bubble (ATB) arrangement.

No firm timeframe yet

Both governments have not confirmed nor indicated any firm date to start the ATB flights. However reports have suggested that the bubble could comments in ‘weeks’, even though Hong Kong needs to go through a legislative process first.

Airlines are gearing up, but not sure which will be ‘dedicated flights’

Given the ‘dedicated flight’ requirement under the ATB agreement, you definitely shouldn’t be rushing to book any flight given that airlines will almost certainly need to no firm details of those services or the airlines involved at this stage.

At present, there are about two flights a day between Singapore and Hong Kong:

  • Singapore Airlines is currently operating a daily service,
  • Cathay Pacific operates three services a week, while they are projecting to increase this to twice daily towards the end of year, and,
  • Scoot is operating three services a week at the moment.

Since the announcement of the ATB yesterday, economy class fares on SIA has already gone up to about S$530-S$588, depending on when you want to fly.

Our sense is that all three airlines will certainly offer these ATB dedicated flights, although it remains to be seen whether that means mounting additional services on top of those already published, or converting these existing frequencies to ATB-only passengers.

In addition, it may be possible that Jetstar Asia may throw their name in the hat as well to offer ATB flights, given that low-cost carriers are already point-to-point carriers, so meeting the ‘dedicated flight’ requirement will be an easy feat by Jetstar Asia.

It’s far too early to say whether these flights will be sold at a different fare level, or whether miles redemptions will be available for these flights. After all, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung did mention that these fares will be a ‘commercial decision’, and that there will be a quota for the number of travellers allowed on these flights per day.

Final thoughts

This might just be the first sign of light in a very long tunnel of 2020.

More importantly, the ATB, once began, will help to pave the way for similar arrangements with hopefully more countries, and giving a much needed reboot to tourism sector.

According to analysts, the reopening of this very popular air sector between the two giant Asian financial hubs will provide a financial lift to both Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines, in a new silver lining for the aviation sector.

In the meantime, if you really need to get some booking done to make yourself excited, why not check out the hotels in Hong Kong first?

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