Hong Kong ATB latest: Extra COVID-19 test required in Singapore; SIA offering full refunds

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The Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble is going ahead for now, but with additional COVID-19 testing requirements. Singapore Airlines ATB passengers are eligible for full refunds.

The inaugural ATB flight to Hong Kong is scheduled to depart tomorrow morning, and there’s been a fair bit of last-minute drama as to whether it’ll actually happen. That’s because Hong Kong has seen a rise in COVID-19 case numbers over the past week, including the all-important unlinked cases. 

It’s now been confirmed that the travel bubble will go ahead as planned, but with some extra precautions in the form of an additional COVID-19 test upon arrival in Singapore. Singapore Airlines is also offering a full refund to all passengers with ATB flight bookings, should they no longer wish to go. 

Update: The ATB has now been postponed for at least two weeks, due to the resurgence in COVID-19 cases. Learn more here.

Additional COVID-19 test in Singapore

Visitors or returnees to Singapore will now have to do a COVID-19 test at Changi Airport

Currently, ATB passengers are required to undergo 2-3 COVID-19 tests, depending on the duration of their stay in Hong Kong:

  • Test 1: Within 72 hours of departing Singapore for Hong Kong
  • Test 2: Upon arrival at Hong Kong International Airport
  • Test 3: Within 72 hours of departing Hong Kong for Singapore (unless your return flight to Singapore is less than 72 hours after the second test)

Now, an additional COVID-19 test will be required on arrival at Changi, regardless of whether you’re visiting from Hong Kong, or a Singapore resident returning from your trip. 

The CAAS provides some further information:

After the test, travellers must self-isolate in their place of residence, whether a hotel or a home (for Singapore residents), while waiting for the results, which will take about six to eight hours. They are to take private transportation, taxi, or private hire car from the airport to their declared place of accommodation.

How much does it cost?

The additional COVID-19 test in Singapore will cost S$196 per traveller, but the fee will be waived in the first week from 22-28 November 2020. This is no small amount, however, and adds to an already onerous testing regime. 

Test Location Price
#1 Pre-departure in Singapore S$170-200
#2 Post-arrival in Hong Kong HK$499 
#3 Pre-departure in Hong Kong* HK$700-2,000
#4 Post-arrival in Singapore S$196
    S$573-S$828
*Children under the age of 12 are exempt from this test. This test not required if your return flight to Singapore is less than 72 hours after the second test.

Depending on where you do your test in Singapore/Hong Kong, you might be looking at a bill of over S$800 per person. Imagine that multiplied by a family of four, and I think it’s safe to say the travel bubble is off-limits to all but the most desperate (or affluent) of travelers. 

What does this mean for the ATB?

Nothing, yet. The ATB continues as planned, although it will be temporarily suspended for two weeks if the seven-day moving average of the daily number of unlinked COVID-19 cases is more than five in either Singapore or Hong Kong.

If the seven-day moving average of the daily number of unlinked COVID-19 cases on the last day of the suspension period is five or less, the ATB arrangement will resume.

Singapore has not seen any community transmission of COVID-19 for the last 10 days, but Hong Kong has averaged a rate of 2.14 cases during the last seven days. 

As stated by the CAAS, if Hong Kong has more than 22 unlinked cases within the next three days, the suspension will kick in with a 48-hour notice period. This is to avoid stranding travellers on either side- they’ll presumably have time to rebook flights and return within the window. Any traveler who returns after that cut-off will be subject to a 7-day SHN upon entering Singapore. 

Singapore Airlines is offering refunds for ATB travellers

Refunds are now possible for Singapore Airlines ATB ticket holders

Due to these developments, all Singapore Airlines passengers with tickets on ATB flights will be offered a full refund, with 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 yet to issue a similar statement. In their ATB FAQs, they state the following:

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.

It’s therefore safest to assume that you won’t be able to get a refund for a Cathay Pacific ATB flight at the moment, so long as the ATB continues as planned. 

Conclusion

The additional COVID-19 test adds further cost to an already hefty testing regime, and I wonder how many passengers booked so far are actually traveling for leisure. From what I know, most are journalists, business people, or those with family in Hong Kong. 

As you may know, I’m booked on the inaugural flight to Hong Kong tomorrow. I still plan to continue with the trip, although I’ll be taking some extra precautions which I’ll share in another post. 

To those traveling on the bubble, be safe and vigilant. 

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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T M

Why not just do the socially responsible thing and cancel your travel plans for now? The situation as it stands isn’t like before and you will risk the safety of yourself and everyone else.. Especially when it’s just a leisure trip.

JW19

That is not in the spirit of this site. The fact that Aaron is willing to take the trouble and enlighten us of what would be the potential circumstances should be commended at least if not applauded.

ahem

Hey fanboy, do you really believe we should applaud folks going on <72h leisure trips to countries hit by a fourth wave of covid ?

JW19

So should we stay at home and abstain from malls and public areas as well, this discussion could go on forever. That said the government’s have spoken and its deemed unsafe for the ATB to proceed, so that applause would have to be delayed.

SRYSLY

if you want to be upset, why not be upset at all the journalists who were going to be on that flight?

ahem

I am not upset at Aaron or the journalists; they are doing their job and follow SGP/HK governments guidelines. There is simply nothing to applaud…

meha

Firstly the trip was planned while it was deemed safe. The potential of a fourth wave of covid only suddenly came about.

Secondly, do you believe you should spend your time on the internet trying to tell bloggers how to live their lives? You’re so cute, aren’t you?

ahem

You are missing the point bro, I was supposed to be on that flight too…
And yeah I am quite cute, thanks

sally

wooo somebody gave this guy the internet self-righteous pill. hahahaha.

which moral authority has told you that travel is irresponsible now? certainly not the Singapore or Hong Kong governments who worked hard to create the bubble in the first place!

Cappy Hamper

Will travellers be stuck in HKG/SIN if the ATB is suspended or will the governments mount rescue flights?

It doesn’t amount to much of a holiday if travellers have to spend time and effort worrying and jumping through hoops.

invisible

It would be much more interesting if Singapore originated travelers after coming back would be required to serve SHN and the dedicated facility and forced to pay for it…

ithh

If SG travellers are in HK when the ATB is suspended, they can return on the “regular” flights but will have to serve the seven-day SHN upon arrival.

J. Lin

Safe travel if you have decided to proceed. If you are not, I believe your readers will be happy to wait and read on your next trip review! 🙂

Last edited 4 days ago by J. Lin
invisible

> From what I know, most are journalists, business people,
> or those with family in Hong Kong

For the first two subcategory of such travelers test/flight/accommodation costs are paid by their employers so they are not directly affected. Once they do their one-off flights, with $900 tests I doubt that there will be more than 30 people per day willing to pay that amount and the bubble will die out.

meha

you might be surprised the number of people in Singapore to whom $900 is little to pay for the opportunity to travel.

ithh

SIA is doing the responsible thing by offering refunds. But what about the hotels?

Sam

If the ATB flights were booked using KF miles, can I still cancel and not get charged for redepositing the miles?

Kel

Hi Aaron, i got a flight from 24th to 29th Dec, do you suggest I hold on to the tickets for now? Coz I saw there is no more available travel bubble tickets for booking.

and lets say if I decided to ask for full refund and my tickets are booked through flight credits, so what happens to my flight credits?

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