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Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble to start 22 Nov

Details of the Singapore-Hong Kong ‘Air Travel Bubble’ has been announced. Here’s what you need to know from testing to flights, landing arrangements and more.

As promised, the Singapore authorities today shed more light on the details of the first Air Travel Bubble (ATB) arrangements between Singapore and Hong Kong.

From 22 Nov, there will be one flight a day with an initial quota of 200 passengers. This increases to 2 flights a day from 7 December, with a total of 400 visitors to be carried each day.

The story so far…

When the bilateral ATB was first announced back in October 2020 by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Singapore’s Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung, it was met with much excitement by residents on both ends. The excitement arose from the fact that this is the first true leisure travel arrangement, with no restrictions on the type of travel and, more importantly, no quarantine required at either end of the journey.

These are some of the facts that were put out for those who wanted to travel via the ATB:

  • Travellers must have stayed in Singapore or Hong Kong wholly for the preceding 14 days before travel. This excludes select groups of foreign workers (Holders of Work Permits or S Passes working in the construction, marine shipyard and process sectors), as requested by the Hong Kong government.
  • Travellers must take mutually recognised COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and will need to have negative test results.
  • Travellers will not be subject to any quarantine or Stay-Home Notice requirements, or a controlled itinerary.
  • Travellers must travel on dedicated flights for this ATB, i.e. these flights will only fly point-to-point between Singapore and Hong Kong and carry only ATB travellers. No transit passengers nor non-ATB travellers (e.g. travellers on business green lane arrangements) will be allowed on board.

New details

With the announcement today, the ATB will set to begin from 22 November 2020, starting with one daily flight dedicated to the ATB. A maximum of 200 passengers will be allowed on the flight.

If this goes well, the number of flights will go up to two a day, with no change to the maximum number of passengers on the flight. This effectively doubles the number of passengers to be carried.

Cathay Pacific business class

The air travel bubble will be suspended for two weeks if the seven-day moving average of the daily number of unlinked COVID-19 cases is more than five in either Singapore or Hong Kong.

Both governments have been very careful since the first announcement of the ATB to point out that the initial numbers will be deliberately kept very small, with the ability to scale up or down, depending on the Covid-19 situation in both countries.

Testing requirements

There will be a total of three tests required: two when you are departing Singapore to Hong Kong, but only one when you are departing Hong Kong travelling to Singapore.

From Singapore

Travellers will need to take a PCR test within 72 hours before the departure time. Those departing from Singapore must apply for approval to take their PCR test at least seven days before departure, and will need a confirmed flight ticket to Hong Kong to do so.

The PCR test will be from a sample obtained through a nasal swab, and currently priced at about S$200 per test.

Upon arrival in Hong Kong, you will need to take another test at the airport, and wait at the airport for test results before you can leave. The test will cost HK$499 (S$90).

From Hong Kong

Travellers will be required to take a PCR nucleic acid test in the city at most 72 hours before departure with test results available before flight. This can be done at any of the government-approved clinics and laboratories, or at the community testing facilities. Depending on where you go, the test can be a nasal swab or a deep throat saliva sample.

At the time of writing, the cost of taking a test at a private facility is between HK$700 to HK$2000 (S$122 to S$350), while the community testing facility is estimated to be HK$240 (S$42). At the time of writing, it’s unclear whether visitors to Hong Kong can use the community testing facility.

Note: Regardless of which city you are departing from, if your return flight is less than 72 hours from the time you last took a Covid-19 test, you will not be required to take the second pre-departure test.

E.g. If you arrive in Hong Kong from Singapore on 10 Dec at 1900H and took the arrival Covid-19 test at 2000H. If you are scheduled to return to Singapore on 13 Dec at 0910H, you will not be required to take the pre-departure test out of Hong Kong.

Flights for ATB

Both Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific have announced flights under the ATB, as follow:

Singapore Airlines (using an Airbus A350-900 Regional)

SectorFlight No.DepartureArrivalDays Operating
(22 Nov – 6 Dec)
Days Operating
(From 7 Dec)
SIN-HKGSQ8901000140022 Nov (Sun)
SQ8900800114523 Nov (Mon)
SQ8900735112025, 27, 29, 30 Nov
2, 4 Dec
Daily
HKG-SINSQ8911255165523 Nov (Mon)
SQ8911230163025, 27, 29, 30 Nov
2, 4 Dec
Daily

Cathay Pacific (using an Airbus A350-900)

SectorFlight No.DepartureArrivalDays Operating
(22 Nov – 6 Dec)
Days Operating
(From 7 Dec)
SIN-HKGCX7341500190024, 26, 28 Nov
1, 3, 5, 6 Dec
Daily
HKG-SINCX7590910130022, 24, 26, 28 Nov
1, 3, 5, 6 Dec
Daily

For the first two weeks from 22 Nov, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific will both operate the first outbound ATB service from their respective countries, and then proceed to alternate days in a week to operate the once-daily ATB flight, with Singapore Airlines taking Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and Cathay Pacific taking Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

For the first two Sundays, SIA will operate ATB service on 29 Nov, Sunday, while Cathay will operate the ATB service on 6 December, Sunday.

Both airlines will increase to a daily service from 7 December, when the quota increases to two flights a day.

With those services serving the ATB facility, the following flights will continue to serve non-ATB passengers, including transit passengers and RGL visitors. Passengers previously booked on Singapore Airlines for non ATB purposes will be transferred to Scoot.

AirlineSectorFlight No.DepartureArrivalDays of OpsAircraft
Singapore AirlinesSIN-HKGSQ87214501850Wed, Thu, SatB787-10
HKG-SINSQ87119552355Wed, Thu, SatB787-10
ScootSIN-HKGTR98014151815Tue, Fri, SunB787-9
HKG-SINTR98119152320Tue, Fri, SunB787-9

Award tickets and fares

When in-principle agreement for the ATB was first announced last month, flight searches jumped 400% and fares rose 40% in response to the news, despite specific ATB flights not yet being confirmed.

There have been previous news reports on how airfares to and from Hong Kong have jumped, despite details of the ATB not being released yet.

For those who are looking to use miles to redeem for tickets on this route, our only advice is to keep your miles back in your wallet.

At the time of writing, there are no longer any award seats available on Singapore Airlines’ services between Singapore and Hong Kong all through end January 2021.

Cathay Pacific have also greyed out all its award availability across all cabins, even right up to the most expensive ‘Choice’ and ‘Tailored’ awards through end of January 2021. You may however place yourself on the waitlist and hope it comes through.

As such, your best bet will be a cash ticket instead.

Cathay Pacific has done up a dedicated page for the ATB, with flights now going on sale. Flights for the ATB are marked with a Travel Bubble label, so you know which ones you can book.

The cheapest fares available for Cathay Pacific seems to be the following:

Cabin ClassFare ClassAll-in fare (S$)
EconomyV$557
L$682
M$787
Premium EconomyE$1157
R$1262
BusinessI$1789
P$2149
D$2619
C$3224
Cathay Pacific indicative fares

Singapore Airlines has not released any information on the ATB flights, but based on a quick search on its website, fares begin from $557 round-trip out of Singapore:

Cabin ClassFare ClassAll-in fare (S$)
EconomyW$558
H$697
M$802
E$872
BusinessU$1961
J$2729
C$3334
Singapore Airlines indicative fares

Of course, the lower fare classes have all been snapped up or closed off by now, so be prepared to shell out a premium.

For those who are more price-sensitive, you might want to go with Cathay Pacific. While the return flight is a tad early, the difference in price between both airlines may not be worth the additional time in Hong Kong.

More information

Singapore’s Immigration and Checkpoint Authority has set up a dedicated page with more information on the ATB.

There is a dedicated website set up by Hong Kong Tourism Board on the Air Travel Bubble, which you can refer to for more information.

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