Singapore to form leisure travel bubble with Hong Kong: What we know so far

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December holidays back on? It could be, now that a Singapore/Hong Kong travel bubble has been announced.

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:

  1.  there are no restrictions on travel purpose;
  2. travellers under the ATB will be subject to mutually recognised COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction tests and would need to have negative test results;
  3. travellers under the ATB will not be subject to any quarantine or Stay-Home Notice requirements, or a controlled itinerary;
  4. 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
  5. 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. 

Flight Route Depart/Arrive Frequency
SQ890 SIN-HKG 0735/ 1120 Daily
SQ891 HKG-SIN 1230/ 1630 Daily
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

Flight Route Depart/Arrive Frequency
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. 

Flight Route Depart/Arrive Frequency
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
KrisFlyer SQ 15,000 30,500
Asia Miles CX 10,000 25,000
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.

Conclusion

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…

Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion with the intention of helping people travel better for less and impressing chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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phister

Don’t suppose Macau is part of the bubble, being more under China’s purview than HK’s. I find that I run out of things to do really quickly in HK and somehow always find myself boarding the Turbojet every time I’m there…

complain

stop complaining, this is great news

Ben

Sing it’s a small world after all whilst staying socially distanced.

Ben

I am considering, but if I do go, I will bring a burner phone. Unlikely, but still theoretically possible that the HK police will check your phone on arrival. Given my dislike of the CCP, I’ll probably be sent off to a thought transformation camp immediately.

John

Exactly. You all are thinking of vacations – please consider the horrible situation the people of HK are facing, and that you’ll be supporting this oppressive regime with your travel $

Ronald

Dont go! HK belongs to China now

Freddy

SCMP has been talking about this for some time. Good to see that it finally materializes!

Michael

Keeping my fingers crossed for Maldives in Dec

Bent

$400 for 2 PCR tests? :/ That covers 2n in a 5* hotel in HKG (current pandemic rates)

JW19

400 for freedom or would you rather dine in a business class seat for a couple of hours. Value proposition differs between individuals.

Ronald

I guess there will be some form of subsidize of both government

BSLTW

I actually bought a Scoot ticket home to sg for the Christmas to NY period (300 plus SGD) last mth when news broke that they are in discussion about ATB, thinking that I just use the one free change of date if they don’t lift quarantine on both sides. Now my wish will be that my Scoot flight becomes a dedicated flight. #gothope

Dave

Great news for both countries. I was about to book a cruise to nowhere in my desperation yesterday. Scrap that – we’re going to Disneyland!

Lifshitz

seriously considering booking an award ticket for December speculatively. If the flight would not be on the approved list, what are the current cancellation policies? Does the travel waiver apply to award tickets?

Sim

If I remember correctly, it’s just a paltry $25 in change fees. I’m biting the bullet and redeeming an award. Have miles to burn anyways..

Edward

I am guessing because both SIN and HKG do not have domestic market for their airlines. So they are more willing to cooperate. One can serve as “domestic” market for each other. Also the business travel traffic I guesd.

invisible

As long as they keep PCR testing price that high, it will effectively keep most of people from travelling. This is BTW, one of serious hurdle for people in US, even if you have a legitimate reason for travel – if you want to get a test result within 24h from departure, expect paying USD $300 and more.

invisible

It is already down in certain places – at IST, right at the airport you can now get it for USD $50 and result will be available within 4h – info from FT, I have not checked personally. Travelers (leisure or business/essential) are captive audience in the era of Covid – they have to take it and have no other option. It is like paying USD $15 for a hot dog at a baseball game – if you want/need it, you can’t walk to nearest 7-11 to get it for $1.5 I personally don’t see and incentive for Singapore (or… Read more »

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