While Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung has told Singaporeans not to get their hopes up about leisure travel in December 2020, it seems we may be pleasantly surprised yet.
It’s just been announced that Singapore and Hong Kong will be forming a travel bubble, which allows for travel without the need for quarantine. This would cover all types of travel, including leisure.
No timeline has been announced yet, although the SCMP states:
No firm date had been fixed but the arrangement could start as soon as November, although December was seen as more realistic, an aviation industry insider added.
How would the travel bubble work?
Here’s the key points of the air travel bubble (ATB), according to the Hong Kong authorities:
- there are no restrictions on travel purpose;
- travellers under the ATB will be subject to mutually recognised COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction tests and would need to have negative test results;
- travellers under the ATB will not be subject to any quarantine or Stay-Home Notice requirements, or a controlled itinerary;
- travellers under the ATB will be required to travel on dedicated flights, i.e. these flights will only serve ATB travellers and no transit passengers or non-ATB travellers will be allowed on board; and
- the ATB can be scaled by adjusting the number of dedicated flights upwards or downwards, or even suspended, in line with the latest developments and COVID-19 situation in the two cities.
What’s particularly interesting to note is the “dedicated flights” requirement, which means there’s little point making speculative bookings until the full details are known. Singapore Airlines has resumed carrying transit passengers through Changi, and the authorities would want to keep this group separate from Singapore residents.
What flights are currently scheduled between Singapore and Hong Kong?
For the months of November and December, Singapore Airlines currently has SQ890/891 serving Hong Kong on a daily basis, and SQ872/871 every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.
|SQ872||SIN-HKG||1450/ 1850||Wed, Thu, Sat|
|SQ871||HKG-SIN||1955/ 2355||Wed, Thu, Sat|
Scoot has yet to announce its December schedule, but for November it has thrice weekly service to Hong Kong via TR980/981
|TR980||SIN-HKG||0735/ 1120||Sun, Tue, Fri|
|TR981||HKG-SIN||1230/ 1630||Sun, Tue, Fri|
Further options are available via Cathay Pacific, which operates a once-a-week flight in November. Sadly, they’ve had to relocate to Terminal 1 following the suspension of Terminal 4.
|CX734||SIN-HKG||1645/2045||Tue, Thu, Sat|
|CX759||HKG-SIN||0910/1300||Tue, Thu, Sat|
Needless to say, we’ll bound to see more flights added to cater to demand.
What about award seats?
Once again- there’s no point booking until we know more details. The last thing you’d want is to put yourself on a non-eligible flight for the travel bubble.
But just for idle curiosity, there’s a ton of award space between Singapore and Hong Kong, at least on Singapore Airlines. Every day in November and December has at least six Business Class saver seats available.
Here’s how much it’d cost with different frequent flyer programs:
|One-Way Prices||Travel on||Economy||Business|
|Alaska Mileage Plan||CX||12,500||22,500|
|British Airways Avios||CX||11,000||22,000|
|EVA Infinity MileageLands||SQ||17,500||25,000|
|United Mileage Plus||SQ||17,500||25,000|
The good news is that both Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines have scrapped fuel surcharges, so you’ll only pay the relevant airport taxes (which cost S$87.70 on a round-trip flight).
What do we not know yet?
Apart from the implementation date, there are a ton of questions on my mind:
- How will travel insurance work in this case, now that the government will presumably lift its advisory for Hong Kong?
- How will the COVID-19 PCR testing requirement be implemented (e.g how soon before departure?)
- Will there be any restrictions on the types of hotels Singapore residents can book when in Hong Kong?
I’m sure more details will be announced in due course, so sit tight.
I really didn’t see this coming- if anything, I thought a leisure travel bubble with Australia was more likely to happen first. But with the Aussies deciding to keep their borders closed for now, this is a welcome piece of news indeed.
I’ll be taking a look at hotels in Hong Kong now, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one…