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Singapore to restart travel bubble arrangement with Hong Kong from 26 May

Will it be a second time lucky?

The long awaited Air Travel Bubble (ATB) between Singapore and Hong Kong is finally set to take off from 26 May 2021, announced by both Singapore and Hong Kong on 26 Apr.

This comes almost six months after the plans for the quarantine-free all-purpose travel arrangement was delayed just hours before its launch in November, and subsequently scuppered in December last year, due to a reflux of local cases in Hong Kong as new infections occured.

What are the new requirements?

By and large, the requirements remain the same as what was proposed last year, including:

  • 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.

There’s some new requirements, including mandatory vaccination status for Hong Kong residents using Hong Kong-issued passports.

Vaccination requirements

The circumstances and situation in both cities have changed much since six months ago, as both cities are progressively vaccinating their citizens since early this year.

As such, one key speculation was whether vaccination was a requirement — this may be good or bad news, depending on where you live.

Bad news first: Hong Kong residents travelling using a Hong Kong passport can only take the ATB-approved flights from Hong Kong at least 14 days after they have had two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Hong Kong residents travelling to Singapore under the ATB will need to be vaccinated if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • Above 16 years old
  • Not exempted from vaccination based on medical grounds
  • Using a Hong Kong travel document
  • Have stayed in Hong Kong for more than 90 days

This means that non-Hong Kong citizens are effectively excluded from the vaccination requirement when visiting Singapore, including Singaporeans who are working/living in Hong Kong.

Fortunately, Singapore residents travelling to Hong Kong will not need to be vaccinated.

Recap: testing requirements

No change from the previous requirement, there will be a total of 3 or 4 PCR tests required if you are departing from Singapore, depending on how long you are going to stay in Hong Kong. The tests and approximate costs are as follow:

Singapore pre-departureBetween $135 and $200
Hong Kong arrivalAbout $85
Hong Kong pre-departure*Between $40 to $320
Singapore arrival$160
COVID-19 PCR tests and costs

*Note: If you are departing Hong Kong within 72 hours of taking the test upon arrival in Hong Kong, you will be exempt from taking a pre-departure test from Hong Kong. Children under the age of 12 are also exempt.

Other requirements

Both the Singapore and Hong Kong ATB website have been updated with the latest rules and process details.

Other requirements that travellers will need to fulfill include:

  • For travellers to Hong Kong, they muse use the “LeaveHomeSafe”(LHS) mobile application to scan LHS QR codes when visiting premises during the stay in Hong Kong, and retain the records for 31 consecutive days after leaving Hong Kong.
  • For travellers to Singapore, travellers must apply for an Air Travel Pass between 7 and 30 days before arrival to Singapore.
  • Visitors to Singapore must install and use the TraceTogether app, and are also required to retain the TraceTogether app with the data for 14 consecutive days after leaving Singapore. 

Flights for ATB

As with before, the ATB will be served by home carriers of both territories: Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific. Both airlines will be running one single inaugural flight on 26 May 2021.

Subsequently, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines will operate on alternate days for the first two weeks of the bubble arrangement. Each carrier will then increase frequency to a daily service from 10 Jun 2021.

The full schedule is as follow:

Singapore Airlines

SectorFlight No.DepartureArrivalAircraftDates Operating
SIN-HKGSQ88208401240A350-900R26, 28, 30, 31 May
SQ88208401240B777-300ER2, 4, 7, 9 Jun
Daily from 10 Jun
HKG-SINSQ88314251820 A350-900R 28, 30, 31 May
SQ88314251820 B777-300ER 2, 4, 7, 9 Jun
Daily from 10 Jun
Cathay Pacific A350

Cathay Pacific

SectorFlight No.DepartureArrivalAircraftDays Operating
(From 7 Dec)
SIN-HKGCX73414451900A350-90027, 29 May
1, 3, 5, 6, 8 Jun
Daily from 10 Jun
HKG-SINCX75909101300 A350-900 26, 27, 29 May
1, 3, 5, 6, 8 Jun
Daily from 10 Jun

Both Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific are showing the above listed flights as ATB designated services until 30 Sep 2021 at the time of writing.

Final thoughts

After a false start last year, it’s great to see that there is a firm date for Singapore’s very first ATB to take off.

Particularly for Singapore residents, the waiver of a vaccination requirement at this juncture is also a good development – at least for now – given that the vaccination rate in Singapore is still pretty low at this point in time.

The ATB also came at a welcomed time as we draw close to the school holidays. At the time of writing, ATB flights are fully booked out for at least the first two weeks, so those looking for a getaway to Hong Kong can now only wait till late June or later for their travel fix.

As we press closer to the inaugural flight date, I guess the only thing to do is to hold our breaths and see if it truly takes off.

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