A leisure travel bubble with the Maldives in December? SilkAir’s latest schedule teases the possibility

SilkAir will operate twice a week flights to the Maldives in December. The better question is: why?

Singapore Airlines has announced its schedule for December 2020, and there’s a big surprise waiting in the “West Asia and Africa” section. 

Two times a week in December, SilkAir Boeing 737-800s will depart Changi bound for Velana International Airport (that’s the Maldives, for the uninitiated). MI 482 will leave every Tuesday morning, while MI 486 will take off every Saturday night. That leaves a gap of five days in between, a perfect length for a jaunt on the atolls.

Route Dates Depart/ Arrival Flight
SIN-MLE Dec 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 1005/ 1150 MI 482
MLE-SIN Dec 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 1255/ 2045 MI 481
SIN-MLE Dec 5, 12, 19, 26 2035/ 2210 MI 486
MLE-SIN Dec 5, 12, 19, 26 2320/ 0655 (+1) MI 485

The question is, who will they be carrying?

The Maldives are currently open to tourists

W Maldives
W Maldives

First of all, there’s no issues getting into the Maldives. The country reopened its borders to tourists in mid-July, and it’s estimated that 94% of its resorts will be in operation by October.

According to the Maldivian Ministry of Tourism, there is no mandatory quarantine on arrival. However, all tourists must present a negative COVID-19 PCR test upon arrival, taken no more than 72 hours prior to departure.

This already presents an issue for us in Singapore, given that it’s not possible to get a pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test here unless you’re traveling for one of a few specific reasons (note how “lazing in the Maldivian sun” isn’t one of them):

  • Travel related to attending essential business-related work, or taking up employment overseas
  • Ship crew sign-on for foreign-going ships
  • For repatriation of Chinese or Indian nationals with live or cancelled work permits and S-Passes returning to China or the Tamil Nadu or West Bengal States of India
  • For travel related to long-term education, compassionate reasons, or otherwise

Even assuming you somehow got a test, you’d face issues when returning from the Maldives. As of today, the Singapore government’s advisory against all overseas travel still remains firmly in place. This means:

  • your travel insurance will not provide coverage for any COVID-19 related events
  • you’ll have to pay for your own 14-day SHN at a dedicated facility upon returning to Singapore (S$2,000), plus COVID-19 testing (up to S$200)
  • should you develop COVID-19 within 14 days of returning to Singapore, you will be liable for the full cost of unsubsidized medical treatment, with no claims from private or public insurance plans

Who are these Maldives flights for?

SilkAir B737-800 cabin
SilkAir B737-800 cabin

So with all these restrictions in place, how would SilkAir have a chance of filling the 162 seats on each flight? The way I see it, there are two possibilities. 

Transit passengers from other countries

First, this could be Singapore Airlines’ play for a larger share of the transit market for leisure passengers, especially if travel restrictions ex-North Asia countries ease. 

However, even though the Maldives is now open, it’s not exactly seeing a tourism boom. Only 7,628 tourists arrivals were recorded in August 2020 (versus 139,338 the year before), and while that figure has surely increased for September, providing 1,458 seats in December for transit passengers alone still seems a little overambitious. 

Leisure travel bubble with Singapore

Second, it could be that Singapore Airlines knows something we don’t. Could a leisure travel bubble with the Maldives be on the cards by December?

The idea wouldn’t be entirely unprecedented- back in August, aviation analyst Brendan Sobie already laid out the case for a travel bubble with the Maldives:

The question now becomes which country will be the first to forge a leisure green lane with Singapore.

There are several possibilities but Maldives makes the most sense as it provides an ideal pilot programme given the size of the country and type of travel.

Maldives is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean with over 150 resort islands. Each island has only one resort, making it a much safer destination in a pandemic environment than others.

Even in normal times, tourists do not hop between resorts or islands and few bother visiting the capital Male, which is its own island and where most of the local population lives.

After landing, tourists go directly to their resorts and stay there for their entire stay. Excursions consist of boat trips for snorkelling, diving and fishing that involve only guests from their resort.

Several Maldivian resorts could be made exclusive for Singapore residents, resulting in a sealed bubble without tourists from other countries.

There would be exposure to staff but a strict testing regime for both guests and employees would significantly reduce any risk. Maldives has reported about 6,000 Covid-19 cases and over 20 deaths since March but most of the islands do not have any recent cases.

There is still a risk associated with any resumption of international travel. However, the leisure green lane concept Singapore is considering can sufficiently manage this risk with Covid-19 testing and strict protocols.

A leisure green lane with Maldives would be of much lower risk compared with any other country, as those would inevitably include some mixing with other tourists.

Sobie speculates that a leisure travel bubble between Singapore and the Maldives could potentially support up to 500 passengers per day, so in that respect, planning two flights a week doesn’t seem that crazy. 

He also highlights the possibility of creating a route between Singapore and Gan International Airport (GAN), instead of Velana (MLE) where virtually all international flights into the Maldives currently land. This would provide easier boat access to resorts in the south of the Maldives, minimizing the need for Singapore passengers to take domestic flights (which are in cramped seaplanes, where social distancing is difficult).

Seaplane to W Maldives
Seaplane to W Maldives

I’m no expert, but from what I understand, GAN can currently take the Airbus A320 (SriLankan Airlines flies it there), so it shouldn’t have any issues accommodating the Boeing 737-800 that SilkAir uses. This could have the added advantage of keeping Singaporeans from mixing with tourists from other countries at the main international airport, en route to their Singaporeans-only resort bubble.

Is a December getaway on the cards?


I find the prospect of a December getaway to the Maldives intriguing, quite frankly. The Maldives, if you think about it, comes with built-in social distancing. There’s no malls, almost everything you do will be outdoors, and the whole point of going there is to see as few people as possible. 

If a travel bubble is indeed created, it would be the first chance that Singaporeans have had to venture overseas since March. And while the Maldives would not be a cheap option by any means, it could be a good test bed for other leisure travel bubbles to more affordable destinations. 

Of course, a lot depends on whether we’re able to keep the community spread within Singapore low. If cases spike for whatever reason, you can bet that overseas travel will be out of the question. 


SilkAir’s December schedule teases the possibility of leisure travel, but given how unpredictable 2020 has been, I wouldn’t start making any plans yet.

That said, December is a great time to visit the Maldives. Rainfall is low, days are warm (but not suffocating so), and there’s plenty of sun. Stay tuned. 

Do you think there’s any chance of seeing Maldives travel in December?

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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In any case, this is a beginning of some good news and am very excited that SIA group is starting to release travel related good news like this. Could this signal the government seeking to open up travel soon, albeit cautiously?


Certainly intriguing! Any resorts in the Maldives you would recommend, especially for a first timer?


With everyone so deprived of travelling… i think whole Maldives will be full lol… not to further consider COVID risk and insurance coverage

SQ crew

I wonder if there are other places that might be able to have similar arrange


Instead of wondering you can ask your colleagues

SQ crew

Ya … could do … but many crew are now being laid off .. me and many of my batch all gone


Really looking forward if they fly to Gan from Singapore.This can save a big chunks especially into southern atoll where only speed boats transfer is needed.

No Brainer

Dream on, people!


I wouldnt make any booking on SQ more than 1 month in advance now. Had a confirmed business class ticket to Chongqing on 13th Dec on Green Lane. Received an sms yesterday that flight was cancelled together with bonus flight credits. As green lane was approved already naturally i still would want to travel so i tried to rebook on different date according to new flight scheduled released on 5th Oct. Lo and behold my refund for business class ticket + bonus flight credit cant even buy a economy ticket as of current price!! Jump through so many hoops apply… Read more »


You need to book flights to either PVG or Chongqing on SQ/Silkair for Mondays only.
Chinese Aviation Authority has put in place 1 flight per week per airline per destination to China since Mar this year. So likely all other flights will be cancelled.
Follow the current flight schedule for flights to China you should be safe even if you book more than 1 month in advance.


From the papers today:

On whether general travel will resume soon, Mr Ong said that expectations need to be managed. 

“For Members who are hoping to hear announcements on some air travel resumption and even possible December holiday destinations, I am sorry I will disappoint you,” he said. 

Kiat Hong

maybe for transit passengers? just maybe but i could be wrong


I do not know about that. I know that the Maldives are trying to entice more passengers from China but the incoming SIA flights from China in December do not line up with the outgoing Maldives flights. We know that Singapore has agreed to a travel bubble with Hong Kong in principle. My guess is that they want to announce more than 1 travel bubble at that time so that people do not all fly off to Hong Kong. A Minister from the Maldives also noted that his country was in discussions with Singapore for a travel bubble. However, whilst… Read more »


January 2021 …. so what now… some news???