Well here’s another twist.
Just hours after the CAAS affirmed that the Singapore- Hong Kong travel bubble would be going ahead as planned, it appears that the Hong Kong authorities have decided otherwise. The South China Morning Post reports that the travel bubble will now be postponed by 2 weeks, with the territory now facing more than 100 confirmed and preliminary COVID-19 cases.
Singapore Airlines is offering refunds to ATB ticket holders
If you’re holding on to an ATB ticket on Singapore Airlines, it’s possible to cancel with a full refund and no penalty fees. This can be found in the ATB FAQ section (emphasis mine):
Q: There has been a change in the Singapore- Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble requirements, will my flight be affected?
A: Our Air Travel Bubble flights will continue to be operated for now. Please note however that passengers on ATB flights entering Singapore will now be required to undergo a Covid-19 test on arrival. For more information, refer to https://bit.ly/35Rq5KE
Customers who no longer wish to travel on the ATB flights, will be able to rebook or request a full refund of their tickets, with cancellation fees waived via our Assistance Request form. The refund will be accorded to the passengers’ original mode of payment for unutilised portion(s) of their tickets (including non-refundable tickets).
Cathay Pacific has said that refunds will be issued if the ATB is suspended, so you can assume they’ll follow suit.
Q: If the Air Travel Bubble is suspended, can I get a refund for my ticket?
A: If the Air Travel Bubble is suspended, we’ll ensure everyone mid-trip gets home by re-assigning them onto normal, non-Air Travel Bubble flights. Please note that normal quarantine procedures would apply.
We’ll also refund or change travel dates without charge for anyone due to travel during the suspension period.
What about rebooking?
Singapore Airlines has said that all flights between 22 November and 6 December 2020 have been retagged as non-ATB flights. This means that customers will need to adhere to quarantine measures upon arrival.
Since the suspension is temporarily set at 2 weeks, I was hoping to rebook myself for 7 December 2020. Unfortunately, there’s no space to be found throughout December at the moment, so we’ll need to sit tight for now.
My take on the situation
When I read that cases in Hong Kong were spiking earlier this week, I was already mentally preparing for the possibility that the travel bubble might be suspended. After all, I’m sure the authorities will want to start this off on the right foot. There’s nothing like a whole bunch of imported cases to torpedo the idea for a long time to come.
In a way, this simplifies things for me too. Had the travel bubble gone ahead, my plan was to voluntarily self-isolate for at least a week upon return, which meant The Milelioness would have to relocate to my parents’ place, and I’d have to give my Inside Singapore Airlines tour on the 29th a miss (you don’t want to be that guy who turned it into a superspreader event).
Don’t get me wrong; I’m still disappointed this didn’t come to pass. But in the cold light of day, I think we all know there’s no point in rushing it. Singapore has just gone 11 days without a local community case-this didn’t happen by accident. There’s a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes, and travel can wait.
The fact of the matter is: until a vaccine is widely-available, we’re going to have to accept that any travel plans aren’t guaranteed. As we’ve seen in other cities, all it takes is one little flare up to start another wave, and that’s the world we’ll be living in for at least another 12 months, possibly more.
What about trip expenses?
As mentioned, Singapore Airlines will be offering refunds or complimentary date changes, so that shouldn’t be a concern for now.
In terms of hotels, I had a total of three bookings: two self-paid, one media invite. Of the self-paid bookings, one of them can be cancelled (Gateway); the other (Langham) has a 72-hour cancellation window which I’m already inside. I’ll therefore need to call up American Express Travel (I booked it through the FHR program) and see what can be done, or else try and make a claim under my travel insurance.
I’ve already spent S$170 on my COVID-19 testing in Singapore, but I held off booking the test on arrival in Hong Kong (HK$499, or about S$86) specifically because of the case spike. That fee is non-refundable, and I didn’t see a point incurring it until I was absolutely certain the trip was on.
The postponement of the ATB is no doubt disappointing, but it’s probably the right call to make at the moment. While a two week suspension has been mentioned, I think it’s likely we may see a longer delay than that, so the second half of December may be a more realistic timeline.
Looks like 2020 may yet have more surprises in store.