Singapore and Hong Kong have officially announced the relaunch of the Air Travel Bubble (ATB) arrangement, which came so close to reality in November before getting scuttled just a day before the inaugural flight.
The ATB will begin on 26 May 2021 with one designated flight per day in each direction. All travellers will be subject to pre-departure and post-arrival COVID-19 testing. While Hong Kong residents must be vaccinated against COVID-19, there is no such requirement for Singapore residents.
|✈️ Singapore- Hong Kong ATB|
|Singapore – Hong Kong ATB (ICA)|
|Hong Kong- Singapore ATB (HKTB)
|❓ More ATB questions? Refer to The Milelion’s FAQ!|
ATB: Eligible travelers
To be eligible for ATB travel between Singapore and Hong Kong, travelers must:
- Have remained in Singapore or Hong Kong for the past 14 consecutive days prior to travel*
- Present a negative COVID-19 PCR test with specimen submitted within 72 hours of departure
- Travel on a designated ATB flight
- Be fully-vaccinated against COVID-19 (For Hong Kong residents only)
*The 14-day travel history should not include any time spent in quarantine or SHN in Singapore or Hong Kong due to previous travel
Those who hold work permits or S-Passes issued by the Singapore MOM working in the construction, marine shipyard or process sectors are excluded from traveling on the ATB.
When ATB discussions resumed in March, the Hong Kong authorities suggested that vaccinations would be mandatory for Hong Kong residents travelling to Singapore. I wrote at the time that this would certainly mean the same requirement applying in reverse, but surprisingly, this isn’t the case.
While Hong Kong residents departing Hong Kong must be fully-vaccinated for COVID-19 before they can travel on ATB flights, passengers departing Singapore on ATB flights do not need to be vaccinated.
The vaccination requirement does not apply to Hong Kong residents:
I suppose this stems from the fact that vaccinations have been made available to the general public in Hong Kong, but the same has yet to happen in Singapore. As it stands, Singapore residents under the age of 45 will only have access to the vaccine from June, and the 35-42 day time lag between the first jab and full effectiveness would have ruled out ATB travel for most Singaporeans until July at least.
|Dose 1||Dose 1|
|▼ +21 days||▼ +28 days|
|Dose 2||Dose 2|
|▼ +14 days||▼ +14 days|
|Fully Vaccinated||Fully Vaccinated|
|Total time ≥ 35 days||Total time ≥ 42 days|
Regardless of vaccination status, travelers will still be required to undergo COVID-19 testing before departure and on arrival in Singapore/Hong Kong.
ATB: Travel Process
Travel from Singapore to Hong Kong
Before departure, travelers must fulfill the following requirements:
- Apply for visa (not required for Singapore passport holders)
- Purchase ticket for a designated ATB flight
- Take a pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test
- Submit a Health Declaration
- Book a post-arrival COVID-19 test
COVID-19 PCR tests must be taken within 72 hours before the scheduled departure time of your flight from Singapore to Hong Kong, at one of the clinics or testing centres designated by the Singapore government. This will cost upwards of S$135, based on my latest survey of clinics.
|Children aged 6 or younger in the current calendar year are not required to take a pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test before departing Hong Kong for Singapore. They will also not need to take an on-arrival test upon arrival at Changi Airport|
On arrival in Hong Kong, a second test will need to be done, which will cost HKD499 (~S$85). The booking link is not yet live; I will update this section when it is.
Day of Departure
On check-in, travelers must present the following:
- Valid travel document
- Valid visa (if needed)
- QR code of health declaration form
- Negative COVID-19 PCR test (electronic or printed copy)
- QR code of booking and payment for post-arrival COVID-19 test at Hong Kong airport
- For non-Singapore citizens: identity card, long-term pass, or approval letter of entry
Singapore travelers will be required to download and install the LeaveHomeSafe (LHS) app on their mobile phones prior to leaving Singapore for Hong Kong. This is basically Hong Kong’s equivalent of TraceTogether.
On Arrival in Hong Kong
Travelers will undergo a temperature screening and need to present the same documents as in the previous section.
A second COVID-19 PCR test will be conducted upon arrival, and if the result are negative, travelers may leave the airport and carry out their activities as per normal.
Travel from Hong Kong to Singapore
There is no need for Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders to apply for an Air Travel Pass to enter Singapore, and no need to serve an SHN upon arrival in Singapore. Do note that long-term pass holders will still have to seek entry approval from the relevant Singapore Government agencies before travelling to Singapore.
However, all travelers will need to submit this health declaration form within 3 days of arrival in Singapore.
All travelers must take a third COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours of the scheduled time of departure of the flight from Hong Kong to Singapore. This will cost between HKD240-2,000 (~S$40-340), with the cheaper options available at Hong Kong’s community testing centres.
|If your return flight is within 72 hours of your most recent test (i.e the one administered on arrival), a pre-departure test will not be required before leaving Hong Kong.|
On Arrival in Singapore
On arrival in Singapore, a fourth COVID-19 PCR test will be required. This will cost S$160, and must be booked and paid for before arriving in Singapore. After taking the test, the traveller must take private transportation, taxi or private hire car to their declared place of accommodation and remain isolated until test results are confirmed negative.
So all in all, a Singapore resident can expect to do three to four COVID-19 PCR tests:
|#1||Pre-departure in Singapore||S$135-200|
|#2||Post-arrival in Hong Kong||HK$499|
|#3||Pre-departure in Hong Kong*||HK$240-2,000|
|#4||Post-arrival in Singapore||S$160|
|*This test is not required if your return flight from Hong Kong is within 72 hours of your second test|
ATB: Eligible flights
ATB flights between Singapore and Hong Kong will commence from 26 May 2021, with one flight per day in each direction. Additional flights may be added after the first two weeks, assuming all goes well.
|Singapore Airlines ATB page|
|Cathay Pacific ATB page|
Singapore Airlines will operate SQ 882/883 from Singapore to Hong Kong, while Cathay Pacific will operate CX 759/734 from Hong Kong to Singapore. If you do not travel on one of these ATB designated flights, you will be subject to the regular quarantine rules.
|Singapore to Hong Kong|
|26 May 21||SQ882||0840/ 1240|
|28 May 21||SQ882||0840/ 1240|
|30 May 21||SQ882||0840/ 1240|
|31 May 21||SQ882||0840/ 1240|
|2 Jun 21||SQ882||0840/ 1240|
|4 Jun 21||SQ882||0840/ 1240|
|7 Jun 21||SQ882||0840/ 1240|
|9 Jun 21 onwards
|Hong Kong to Singapore|
|28 May 21||SQ883||1425/ 1820|
|30 May 21||SQ883||1425/ 1820|
|31 May 21||SQ883||1425/ 1820|
|2 Jun 21||SQ883||1425/ 1820|
|4 Jun 21||SQ883||1425/ 1820|
|7 Jun 21||SQ883||1425/ 1820|
|9 Jun 21 onwards
And here’s the initial schedule for Cathay Pacific:
|Singapore to Hong Kong|
|27 May 21||CX734||1445/ 1900|
|29 May 21||CX734||1445/ 1900|
|1 Jun 21||CX734||1445/ 1900|
|3 Jun 21||CX734||1445/ 1900|
|5 Jun 21||CX734||1445/ 1900|
|6 Jun 21||CX734||1445/ 1900|
|8 Jun 21||CX734||1445/ 1900|
|10 Jun 21 onwards
|Hong Kong to Singapore|
|26 May 21||CX759||0910/ 1305|
|27 May 21||CX759||0910/ 1305|
|29 May 21||CX759||0910/ 1305|
|1 Jun 21||CX759||0910/ 1305|
|3 Jun 21||CX759||0910/ 1305|
|5 Jun 21||CX759||0910/ 1305|
|6 Jun 21||CX759||0910/ 1305|
|8 Jun 21||CX759||0910/ 1305|
|10 Jun 21 onwards
Passengers are perfectly at liberty to book an itinerary that mixes carriers in each direction (e.g SQ to HKG, CX to SIN), but this will likely be more expensive as you have to buy 2X one-way tickets.
An initial quota of 200 passengers on a single flight per day will be set. Singapore Airlines’ long-haul configured A350-900 aircraft can seat 253 passengers, so this represents about an 80% load. From June, the aircraft configuration switches to a Boeing 777-300ER (with First Class!)
Customers with existing bookings will be notified if their flight has been designated an ATB flight. Singapore Airlines passengers who do not meet the ATB requirements, or are transit passengers departing from Hong Kong, may opt to be reaccommodated onto a non-ATB flight operated by Scoot instead. Customers rebooked onto Scoot flights will receive baggage allowance and meals onboard.
How much do flights cost, and is there award space?
Unsurprisingly, there’s a jump in the cost of flights to Hong Kong that just so happens to coincide with the ATB launch. As the rate calendar below shows, ticket prices are a very sedate S$276-286 in the runup, before jumping to S$557 on the launch date.
Part of that is because Economy Lite fares, which are available pre-ATB, have been withdrawn from 26 May onwards. Only the more pricey Economy Standard fares are available.
Oh, and you can bet these won’t last long. Based on what we saw the last time round, airfares are liable to spike during the initial few weeks.
High airfares are a sign you should consider redeeming awards instead, and surprisingly, there is still some award space on this route in the first month of operation (at least at the time of writing).
Economy Class has some Saver awards available, although it’s mostly Advantage.
For Business Class, only Advantage awards are available for immediate confirmation;
If you’re determined to use miles on this route, here’s a reminder of how much it will cost.
|One-way price||Saver | Advantage|
|Economy||15,000 | 30,000||10,000|
|Premium Economy||24,500 | N/A||18,000|
|Business||30,500 | 50,000||25,000|
ATB: Travel insurance
The CAAS has said that travelers who contract COVID-19 will need to bear the full cost of any medical treatment, subject to prevailing medical and healthcare policies.
There are two possible scenarios that can happen:
- You test positive for COVID-19 after returning to Singapore, in which case your regular medical insurance kicks in
- You test positive for COVID-19 while in Hong Kong, in which case your travel insurance provides coverage
Let’s look at options for the latter.
Singapore Airlines passengers can opt to purchase the airline’s travel insurance (underwritten by AIG), which includes coverage for COVID-19 related medical expenses and emergency evacuation. This is provided the passenger is traveling under a pre-agreed official agreement like the ATB.
The policy covers up to S$350,000 of medical expenses and evacuation, and provides a daily allowance of up to S$200 (S$100 for Hong Kong specifically) should you test positive for COVID-19 while overseas and be placed into mandatory quarantine.
Alternatively, Cathay Pacific provides all passengers with free COVID-19 coverage (underwritten by AXA), provided their travel dates are on or before 31 May 2021. This has the potential to be further extended, so keep an eye out.
Overseas medical expenses are covered up to US$200,000, while evacuation is covered at actual cost. An overseas quarantine allowance of US$100 per day is also payable.
Alternatively, travelers can opt for third-party insurance policies from the following underwriters, which explicitly cover COVID-19:
You’ll want to read the policy wording of each carefully for coverage and exclusions.
The ATB will be suspended for at least 14 days if the seven-day moving average of the daily number of unlinked local COVID-19 cases (excluding dormitory resident cases in Singapore) is more than five in either Singapore or Hong Kong.
The suspension will take effect after two days (including the day on which the criteria was met) for a two-week period.
The ATB can resume on the next day when the following two criteria have been met:
- the seven-day moving average of the daily number of unlinked local COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong and Singapore does not exceed five on the last day of the 14-day suspension period or any subsequent day; and
- after criterion (i) is met, subsequently there are three consecutive days where the daily number of unlinked local COVID-19 cases does not exceed three in Hong Kong and Singapore, and the seven-day moving average of the daily number of unlinked local COVID-19 cases on the last day of the three consecutive days does not exceed five in both places.
While the first iteration of the Singapore – Hong Kong ATB didn’t quite work out the way it was envisioned, let’s hope the second bite at the cherry will be more, er, fruitful.
The absence of a vaccination requirement for Singapore travelers removes one of the biggest potential hurdles, although the requirement to do up to four COVID-19 tests might make the journey cost prohibitive for families.
I’ve got a ticket booked for the inaugural flight, and will be putting down some thoughts on trip planning soon.
Anyone else making travel plans?