Breaking: Singapore – Hong Kong ATB postponed by 2 weeks

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The Singapore-Hong Kong ATB is off for now, due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in the territory. What a weekend this is turning out to be.

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. 

Conclusion

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. 

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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Cappy Hamper

Will those who have already taken the PCR test be compensated for it or is this another case of caveat emptor?

ithh

No refund.

Cappy Hamper

The moral of the story then is to take the PCR test as late as possible. Commiserations to everyone who has wasted hundreds of dollars only to confirm something that they all already knew.

Anon

How do you know you are negative? There are many asymptomatic cases. What if you are actually positive? Thats the purpose of the test.

Alian

The purpose of the test is to determine COVID-19 infection. The test was done and the results were given. The testing facility should be paid for work done. A person should take the test for testing infection purpose first then ability to fly based government requirements as the next step. Really asking for compensation due to unforeseen circumstances??? Everything has a risk factor involved and we must bear personal responsibility for our choice and not find a way to “outsource” or push that responsibility away. I’m sorry but it’s just me and I find it hard to accept that compensation… Read more »

Allforthegram

Agree! There is absolutely no reason for the cost of the covid test to be refunded. Nobody forces you to travel. If you choose to, it is only reasonable that you accept the risks and costs associated with it. It is a very Singaporean behavior unfortunately.

SHN

Then you should insist that the government not bear the cost of SHN for any traveler in the early days of the pandemic.

allforthegram

How ignorant! You should be grateful that the government is picking up the tabs for returning residents of Singapore. They are just looking after their own. The borders were never open to leisure travelers to begin with. Those who left after border closure and since return have to fork out money my dear. This travel bubble is essentially for non-essential travel. How is it the same and how can you expect the government to pay for everything. If you are unhappy to lose some money for the opportunity to travel, then sit at home and surf the net. That way… Read more »

Last edited 4 days ago by allforthegram
SHN

There is a big difference between enquiring and expecting. Go read the original question and get off your high horse. And you’re obfuscating around my point. I don’t care if you think I should be grateful to the government for picking up the tab. What I want to know is why YOU are not uptight about the government picking up the tab for the initial SHNers but are so uptight about them compensating ATBers. You speak about “looking after their own”. Aren’t many ATBers also Singaporeans? Shouldn’t the government be looking after their own, then? You also speak about ATBers… Read more »

Last edited 3 days ago by SHN
li yan

here is a classic exhibit of the legendary sense of entitlement in singaporeans that people talk about.

ithh

Even when the ATB is relaunched, almost certainly, returning SG residents will have to take another PCR test on arrival. That’ll be another $196 per person. So four PCR tests – unless you do a short stay in HK.It will be very hard for leisure travel to be revived like this.

Alvin tay

Had to go back on monday . Now I’ll see mid week how. Worst case maybe will do the quarantine 14 day Does anyone know can we still quarantine at home premises in hk?

Silver Lining

The good news is that January flights ($345) are no longer at the insane levels of Nov/Dec ($900+) and that saver redemptions are plentiful.

Invisible

Doing non-essential travel is like playing a roulette. Russian one.

vac

“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” Interestingly, there have been confirmed re-infections. None of the vaccine manufacturers are willing to comment definitively on the possibility of re-infection nor the durability of the vaccine(s). Leisure travel will be dead for at least 6 to 12 more months. Still better than the alternative of forever dead. Value of FF miles may be quite different if the latter… Read more »

Ben

The fact that the 4G “leaders” were still trying to push ahead with the bubble and only had to come out “on the same page” as the HK government when they had no other choice, speaks volumes as to what PAP’s true focus has always been on: economy first, people second.

“How much do you want? Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?”

Ken

You do realise that the economy is for the people right? Singapore relies heavily on being a regional hub for its income. Without that, not only travel industry, we lose the MNCs that are headquartered here for connectivity, we lose the consumer brands that are here due to our reach, it waters down to every part of our economy and such a mass exodus will kill us of poverty. Compare the potential of huge unemployment in an already depressed economy vs importing a few cases that we are well capable of catching and isolating before community spread, the choice is… Read more »

Ben

Well, I thought we were “well capable of catching and isolating” cases earlier this year too. Not anymore and definitely won’t make that same mistake. And to say that the economy is for the people? That’s a stretch. More accurately, I think you mean the economy is for the country (as a whole). As to how the “people” get impacted by the economy, that’s a different ballgame altogether.

Ken

Nobody has secure jobs or good means to feed their family if not for a healthy economy. Singapore cannot sustain another hit, nor can it sustain remaining closed. With 5.5 million local population, there is no domestic market to talk about unlike larger countries. The domestic market is unable to sustain our current levels of consumption and salaries. Just look at the riots in Indonesia and other countries. You think their peoples don’t want to stay home and be healthy and have less risk from covid? Do they really prefer working hard than closing down? No, they can’t afford to… Read more »

Sally

Only when you have haters have you reached a level of success that people are red-eyed about! ^_^

Ben

Honestly, apart from those people, nobody takes HWZ seriously at all.

Cindy

Prenetics is able to refund if affected passenger has paid for arrival test kits in HK

Cindy

FYI, Agoda HK just called and willing to refund for non-refundable reservation. You can try to contact Langham and I think it will be the same outcome. We left with PCR test $$ to solve LOL, hopefully Mr Ong is generous enough to let us have free test for next trip when it safe to travel. Cheers.

Louis

Wah quoted in ST leh :p

Last edited 2 days ago by Louis
invisible

A side question… Aaron, at what point you would consider going back to management consulting?

Tai

I decided to cancel my trip to HK and ask for a refund from CX. The whole process and esp. the testing is just too troublesome and expensive. This weekend people in HKIA apparently had to wait again 12 hours+ to get the results for the arrival PCR test! There is no food provided and you can’t lie down. You sit in a very cold and uncomfortable looking hall. Simply not acceptable eight months into the pandemic. No way I want to do this to myself for a week’s holiday. As much as I miss traveling, this is too troublesome.… Read more »

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