After months of travel restrictions and being homebound, travellers finally have a glimmer of hope with the recent announcement of a Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble, the first such arrangement in the city-state. On 11 November, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung announced that travellers will be able to travel to Hong Kong for leisure from 22 November, and the scheme will start with one flight a day into each city with a maximum of 200 passengers per flight. This will be increased to two flights a day from 7 December.
“While we may be starting small, this is an important step forward. I have no doubt both Singapore and Hong Kong will cooperate fully to make this scheme work,” said Ong.
Hailing the move, Singapore Airlines (SIA) Chief Executive Officer Goh Choon Phong says, “This air travel bubble arrangement is an important step for both Singapore and Hong Kong as we rebuild from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and supports the ongoing recovery of the airline industry. It paves the way for us to open up in a safe and calibrated way with the necessary testing protocols in place, and provides a promising model for other bilateral arrangements around the world.”
Can’t wait to book your flights? Here’s what you need to know.
1. Travellers need to adhere to prevailing health protocols of both cities
While travellers between Singapore and Hong Kong will not be required to serve quarantine or stay-home notices, they have to take Covid-19 tests. All travellers will be required to test negative on a Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test 72 hours before their scheduled departure. Those departing from Singapore before 1 December need to apply to the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) to take the PCR test at least seven days before their trip, with a confirmed flight ticket to Hong Kong. Those travelling from 1 December would not need to apply for approval, and can go directly to one about 600 clinics and private healthcare providers in Singapore to get their PCR tests done.
Upon arrival in Hong Kong, travellers from Singapore have to take another Covid-19 test and remain at the airport until the results are confirmed, which could take about four hours. However, there is no such requirement for travellers from Hong Kong going to Singapore. Finally, before departing from Hong Kong, travellers must take a PCR test within 72 hours of their scheduled departure time at a recognised testing centre.
Singapore excludes children aged 12 and below from having to undergo the PCR test, while Hong Kong requires all travellers to be tested. The good news is, there will be no restrictions placed on your purpose of travel, and no need for a controlled itinerary. (However, if you need inspiration on where to eat, drink and play in Hong Kong, read our latest guides here).
2. Travellers need to ensure eligibility to travel under the Air Travel Bubble (ATB) arrangement
Travellers are required to adhere to a set of criteria laid out in the ATB arrangement, including remaining in Singapore for at least 14 consecutive days before departing for Hong Kong and obtaining a valid visa before your flight. Travellers will also need to submit an online declaration of their travel history in the past 14 days prior to departure from Singapore, which includes information about their health conditions. Work permit and S-pass holders in the construction, marine shipyard and process sectors are excluded from travelling from Singapore to Hong Kong under the air travel bubble.
The Hong Kong Government and Singapore Government have also designated specific flights for travellers travelling under the ATB arrangement – more information in the point below. For travellers from Hong Kong, they must apply for an Air Travel Pass between seven and 30 days before their intended date of entry into Singapore. Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders are exempt from this requirement.
To find out more about the requirements of travel under the ATB arrangement, please click here.
3. Visitors have to keep to each city’s health and social distancing measures
Both cities have prevailing measures that travellers would need to abide by; this includes wearing masks and observing limits on group gatherings. In Singapore, travellers from Hong Kong are required to download and register for the TraceTogether app on their mobile phones, and keep it activated during their stay. They must also keep the app on their phones for 14 days after leaving Singapore.
4. SIA will operate ATB flights to Hong Kong while Scoot will operate the non-ATB flights
The inaugural ATB flight from Singapore, SQ890, will depart on 22 November, while the inaugural ATB flight from Hong Kong, SQ891, will depart on 23 November. The Airbus A350-900 long-range aircraft will be used for the route.
For the initial stage of the ATB arrangement, flights from Singapore are scheduled for departure at 0735 on 25, 27, 29, 30 November as well as 2 and 4 December while flights from Hong Kong are scheduled for departure at 1230 on 25, 27, 29, 30 November as well as 2 and 4 December. From 7 December, Singapore Airlines will operate daily return ATB flights to Hong Kong.
Customers who are not eligible to fly on ATB flights may choose to fly on Scoot to Hong Kong. Customers with existing bookings but do not meet the ATB requirements, or are travellers transiting through Singapore or Hong Kong and therefore not eligible for ATB flights, will have the option to be re-accommodated on Scoot instead.
“Keeping our customers and crew safe and secure has always been our top priority, and we are committed to ensuring that all precautionary measures are in place to safeguard everyone’s wellbeing during the travel journey,” Goh adds. “We look forward to welcoming our customers on board our aircraft, and delivering the exceptional inflight service that Singapore Airlines is renowned for.”
5. The situation is fluid
The air travel bubble arrangement 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, says the CAAS in a statement.