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Accor Black Friday sale now on, till 30 Nov 2020

SO Sofitel from S$174 nett, Sofitel City Centre from S$191 nett and more (fully refundable)

Accor has launched its Black Friday sale, offering up to 50% off hotel stays. Plus, earn double rewards points for Accor ALL members if you register before your stay.

Offer details

The Black Friday sale runs between 26 and 30 Nov, and booking must be done directly with Accor either through their website or mobile app.  The base discount is 40% off the Best Available Rate, with an additional 10% off for Accor ALL members (more on that later).

For stays in Singapore, Malaysia or Indonesia, your stays must be between 7 Dec 2020 and 8 Dec 2021. If you’re staying in Taiwan, Hong Kong or Macau, stay period must be between 7 Dec 2020 and 14 Mar 2021. 

Rooms booked under these rates are fully refundable if you cancel at least 72 hours before arrival. 

Accor Plus members will enjoy additional 10% off for a total of 50% off.

Great deals at SO Sofitel and Sofitel City Centre

SO/ Sofitel Singapore has earlier announced that it will be reopening in mid-December 2020 and is currently open for bookings for stays from 10 Dec onwards. 

The lowest rate currently available is S$148++ (S$174 nett) for a base-level SO COSY room with a Accor Plus membership.

 Sofitel City Centre has been opened for staycations some months earlier, and under this promotion the cheapest room you can find goes at S$162++ (S$191 nett).

The good news is that if you weren’t planning to head to Hong Kong over the new year, the sale rates are still available at this property for your countdown staycations.

Final thoughts

This is a definitely a good sale to take a look at, even if it means booking rooms for the longer horizon. No harm doing that although you need to make some upfront payment, given that these rates are fully refundable.

We have booked some rooms for ourselves in case the Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble fails to take off, so why not do the same?

Conrad Centennial to reopen from 16 Dec 2020, rooms on sale from S$239 nett

Hilton has launched the “Hilton Dream” sale; Hilton Singapore rooms are also available from $201 nett

Conrad Centennial has joined the long list of hotels approved to receive leisure guests. From 16 Dec 2020, the hotel in the Marina area will reopen its doors to leisure guests once again after being shut for nearly three quarters of the year.

Changes to lounge operations

While the hotel will welcome guests, Executive Room guests and Hilton Honors Diamond Elite members will have to contend with some changes to operations, according to the hotel.

Conrad Centennial will only operate one lounge at Level 31 when it reopens on 16 Dec. The poolside lounge at level 4 will be closed until further notice.

Conrad Centennial Singapore – Level 31 Executive Lounge

The Level 31 lounge will be opened from 3pm to 10pm daily, serving both afternoon tea and evening cocktails at the following hours:

  • Afternoon tea: 3pm to 5pm
  • Evening cocktails: 6pm to 8pm

According to the hotel, afternoon tea will be consist of sandwiches and cakes served to the table on a stand, with coffee, tea and other non-alcoholic beverages available. In the evening, complimentary evening drinks will be served with hors d’oeuvres.

As with Hilton Singapore, prior reservation is required to visit the lounges during both sessions. You will be able to reserve a one-hour slot for each session.

The lounge will not be serving breakfast, so guests will have to head to Oscars for breakfast from 7am to 10.30am (weekdays) or 11am (weekends).

Facilities

The hotel is expected to reopen all facilities, including the fitness centre, swimming pool and on-property restaurants and bars, but do expect that capacity controls will be in place.

Conrad Centennial Singapore swimming pool

Hilton Big Dream, Big Savings sale

At the same time, Hilton is running a global sale from now. The ‘Big Dream, Big Savings’ sale differs slightly from region to region, but for Asia Pacific (including Singapore) the sale runs from now until 7 Dec 2020, for stays between 26 Nov 2020 and 30 Jun 2021.

For this sale, the rates will be up to 25% off the property’s Best Available Rate (BAR), with an additional 5% for Hilton Honors members. Unlike most of the booking terms for rooms this year, the sale will be non-refundable, but changeable up to three days before arrival.

Conrad Centennial – From S$224++

A quick search for stays in December see good availability at Conrad Centennial from S$224++ for weekday stays, and from S$273++ for stays on Fridays to Sundays.

Prices in January 2021 goes down a little, starting at S$203++:

Hilton Singapore – from $171++

Hilton Singapore has been fairly active in its promotions since it reopened in September, especially with its Foodie Staycation deals that comes with a night’s stay and a gourmet meal for two at Opus Bar & Grill or Il Cielo.

Under the Big Dream sale, rates begin at S$203++ for stays in December:

If you can wait until January, the rates for Hilton Singapore goes down to S$171++ for a weekday stay, an unbeatable price:

Final thoughts

Hilton Honors members have long awaited for Conrad Centennial Singapore to reopen since the middle of this year. Arguably the best Hilton property in Singapore, the news of the hotel reopening in time for Christmas is greatly welcomed.

So if you are planning to start clocking stays in 2021 to requalify for status in 2022, it might be a good time to start planning your stays with a couple of these deals now!

Singapore-Hong Kong ATB launch deferred by two weeks

The travel bubble bursts for now, bubble slated for re-start on 6 Dec 2020

Travellers hoping to catch the Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble (ATB) will now have to wait another two weeks for it to begin, as Hong Kong is facing a possible ‘fourth wave’ in Covid-19 cases.

The ATB was originally slated to commence today (22 Nov), but a decision was made on Saturday afternoon to postpone it by two weeks given the unstable situation in Hong Kong.

­Hong Kong

On Saturday (21 Nov 2020), Hong Kong saw a total of 13 unlinked cases, bringing the seven day average of unlinked cases to 3.86. While this did not reach the mutually agreed threshold of 5, both countries agreed that it would be unwise to commence the ATB at this point.

Given the evolving situation in Hong Kong, Secretary Edward Yau and I discussed further this afternoon, and decided that it would be better to defer the launch of the ATB, by two weeks. We will review within two weeks on the new launch date and update again.

Singapore Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung

While the initial deferment is for two weeks, both governments are said to announce details of the new launch dates in ‘early December’.

Hours earlier: new on-arrival test requirement in Singapore

Just a day before the postponement was announced, Singapore has installed a new testing requirement for travellers from Hong Kong as the latest measure. Passengers travelling on ATB flights from Hong Kong to Singapore previously only needed to take a test before departing Hong Kong.

This brings the total number of tests for a round-trip journey to four: one before departure from each point, and one upon arrival at each airport.

Under the original arrangements of the ATB, there were only three tests required:

  1. Pre-departure test from Singapore to Hong Kong (between S$160 to S$200)
  2. On-arrival test taken upon arrival in Hong Kong (HKD499, or S$83)
  3. Pre-departure test from Hong Kong to Singapore (between HKD750 to HKD2000, or S$120 to S$325)

There was previously no requirement to take a test upon arrival in Singapore. With the new requirement, the new requirement adds another S$196 to the costs of tests, bringing the total for a round-trip journey to at least S$600.

The exception will be for those who have spent less than 72 hours in either city, given the pre-departure test is no longer required if the arrival test was taken less than 72 hours before the return flight.

Children under the age of 12 are not required to take the pre-departure Covid-19 PCR test when travelling from Hong Kong to Singapore (both pre-departure and upon arrival), but is required to do so when travelling from Singapore to Hong Kong.

It’s unclear at this moment if this fourth test will continue to be required when the ATB launches on 6 Dec 2020.

Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific offer refunds

Given such late notice of the postponement of the flights, both airlines have offered free refunds or rebooking of the flights for those hoping to travel between 22 Nov and 5 Dec.

Singapore Airlines customers who no longer wish to travel on the ATB flights can request for a refund, or rebook their flights through SIA’s Assistance Request form. Any refunds will be accorded to the passengers’ original mode of payment.

For Cathay Pacific customers, they may request for full refund, exchange the value of the ticket towards Cathay Credits, or rebook the flights free of charge. Affected customers will be preliminarily rebooked on non-ATB flights, so be sure to check your email or contact your travel agent for next steps.

Seats availability very low from 6 Dec

With the bubble deferred for two weeks, passengers who were originally planning to travel between 22 Nov and 5 Dec will be scrambling to rebook flights.

Unfortunately, seats are scarce. On Singapore Airlines, there are no longer any seats available for booking on the ATB-designated daily flights SQ890 and SQ891 from the entire month of December. This is more likely to be a pre-emptive measure on SIA’s part, to accommodate affected customers who wish to rebook their flights.

For Cathay Pacific, there are barely a few seats available on select days in December, but these are expected to be fully taken up with the rebookings for the coming days. However, economy class fares have breached the S$1,000 mark, with round-trip tickets for the week of 7 Dec going at about S$1,200.

Final thoughts

Many people have probably joked about how the bubble will burst even before it begins at one point or another, no thanks to the term ‘bubble’.

The unfortunate thing has indeed happen, tragically hours before the first flight was slated to take off.

With the whole world keeping an eye on how the ATB will work out, it is indeed unfortunate that the arrangement has to be postponed as a result of a potential fresh outbreak. As Singapore Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung puts it: “it is a sobering reminder that the virus is still with us”.

Even as details of the new launch dates come up in the weeks ahead, how Hong Kong manages its cases will also be very critical. If the situation doesn’t come under control, it’s likely that the ATB will be further delayed, perhaps till 2021.

For now, we can only wait.

Targeted offer: Get up to 25% more Qantas Frequent Flyer points when you transfer from credit card

Plus, get one status credit for every 5,000 points transferred.

Qantas Frequent Flyer is now running a targeted promotion offering either 15% or 25% more points when you transfer them from your credit card to QFF. Plus, you will get 1 status credit for every 5,000 points transferred.

The promotion runs from 1 Nov to 30 Nov.

Details

For those who have transferred credit card points to Qantas Frequent Flyer points before, you should have received an email for this promotion.

Simply transfer points from your credit card rewards points to Qantas between 1 Nov and 30 Nov 9pm Singapore Time (12am AEDT), and the airline will add the bonus points after.

The bonus comes at two tiers:

  • Under 299,999 Qantas points – 15% bonus
  • 300,000 Qantas points & above – 25% bonus

The bonus points will be credited up to 15 days after the end of the promo period, i.e. by 15 December. All partial bonus points will be rounded up to the nearest whole point.

In addition, Qantas is also offering status credits for transfer of points. For every 5,000 points transferred, members will receive 1 status credit, up to a maximum of 150 status credits (i.e. 750,000 points transferred).

Note that this earning ratio is before factoring in the bonus points, so for instance if you are transferring 250,000 Citi ThankYou points to 100,000 Qantas points, you will only receive 15,000 bonus Qantas points and 20 status credits (not 23 status credits).

This is one of the rare times where you can actually earn status credits without having to fly. While the status credits earned this way don’t count towards any loyalty bonuses, they still count towards lifetime status credits.

According to Qantas, the points must be credited to QFF within the promotional period to qualify for the bonuses and status credits, so it’s best to transfer early if you want to take advantage of this promotion.

Note: According to the terms and conditions, this is supposed to be a targeted promotion, so your mileage may vary.

Which banks transfer to QFF?

There are only four banks in Singapore that transfer to Qantas Frequent Flyer:

BankTransfer Ratio
American Express*450 MR points to 250 Qantas Points
Citibank25,000 ThankYou points to 10,000 Qantas Points
10,000 Citi Miles to 10,000 Qantas Points
DBS5,000 DBS points to 10,000 Qantas Points
Standard Chartered2.5 360° Rewards Points to 1 Qantas Point
(min 2,500 360° Rewards Points)

*excluding Singapore Airlines-branded cards

Is this a good promo?

Not really. Qantas has previously offered higher bonuses of up to 40% bonus for points transferred to QFF. Standard Chartered ran a limited offer that ended just last month, giving out 1,400 Qantas points for every 2,500 360° Rewards Points transferred.

Another major problem with Qantas Frequent Flyer programme is the relative less appealing award rates and high surcharges for redemptions.

For instance, these are the miles, fees and charges for redeeming a ticket for a one-way business class seat from Singapore to Sydney on various airlines & programmes:

ProgrammeOperating AirlineMiles requiredSurchargeTaxesTotal
Qantas Frequent FlyerQantas68,400S$128.20S$73.10S$201.30
Asia MilesQantas61,000~S$145~S$73S$228
British Airways Executive ClubQantas62,000N.A.N.A.S$103.40
British Airways Executive ClubBritish Airways50,000
(off-peak)
N.A.N.A.S$331.63
Singapore AirlinesSingapore Airlines62,000N.A.S$77.30S$77.30

As you can see, Qantas charges the most number of points required on top of quite a hefty surcharge & taxes. While British Airways charges significantly less number of Avios required, the fees did stack up significantly, eroding any savings from using less miles. You get the best value out of Singapore Airlines in this instance, assuming if you already have the miles to begin with.

Even with the transfer promotion, the savings is hardly worth the additional cash you have to dole out in fees. While you effectively save between 9,000-13,600 points (about 13% or 20% depending on how much bonus you received) for a Singapore-Sydney business class redemption, you will in return have to fork out an additionl $120+ if you compare it to a Singapore Airlines redemption.

Taxes and fees for a Classic Rewards business class ticket on Qantas, Singapore to Sydney (one-way)

One of the few upsides to having Qantas points is their use on Emirates. Emirates has most recent announced that it will no longer make its first class inventory available to most partners, reserving it for Emirates Skywards members only and the most strategic partners. Following that announcement, Qantas confirmed that the Emirates first class award tickets are still available to Qantas Frequent Flyer members, so this is where Qantas points are somewhat still relevant.

Final thoughts

This is one promotion that we think you shouldn’t lose sleep over. Since Qantas Frequent Flyer began expanding its transfer partners locally, there has always been some kind of promotion that offer bonus points on top of the base transfer ratios.

In addition, Qantas points are only valuable in very specific circumstances. Qantas has culled most international flights until at leaast March 2021, so transferring them pre-emptively may also not be the best choice for now.

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.