VTL: 14-day travel history can now include Category I countries

In a long overdue move, Category I countries can now be part of a VTL traveller's 14-day history. Here's the implications.

Singapore announced a series of major updates to its border measures yesterday, which take effect from 12 November 2021 onwards. Among the highlights are the acceptance of ART swabs for pre-departure testing, and category upgrades for more than three dozen countries. 

But buried among the news is a small but crucial development: the 14-day travel history of VTL travellers can now include Category I countries. 

I don’t blame you for missing this. It didn’t even make the MOH’s press release, and is hidden in a subsection on the ICA’s VTL page that you need to click to expand.   

Source: ICA VTL page

Obscure or not, it’s still important to know. 

VTL: 14-day travel history can now include Category I countries

VTL travellers’ 14-day travel history can only feature Singapore and/or VTL countries…for now

A strange quirk of the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) was the rule regarding 14-day travel history.

To be eligible for VTL travel to Singapore, your 14-day travel history could only include Singapore and/or VTL countries. For example, you might travel from Singapore to Germany (3 days), France (4 days) and the UK (5 days), then return from London to Singapore on a VTL flight with no need for quarantine.

However, you would not be able to travel from Singapore to the USA via Hong Kong, spend 7 days there, then return from San Francisco to Singapore on a VTL flight. You’d be denied boarding for the VTL flight because your 14-day travel history features Hong Kong (Category I, non-VTL). 

It’s counterintuitive if you think about it. All the VTL countries currently fall into Category II, which is by definition riskier than Category I. So if it’s safe to travel around in VTL countries and then enter Singapore quarantine-free, why not Category I?

Well, someone has finally recognised the problem, because from 12 November 2021, Category I countries can be part of a VTL traveller’s 14-day travel history. 

Now let’s look at some of the implications of this change. 

You can transit in a Category I country on the outbound leg…

Transit in Hong Kong will soon be possible on the outbound leg of your journey

The inclusion of Category I countries creates additional flight options for Singapore residents, at least on the outbound leg. 

🌎 Category I Countries/Regions
  • China
  • Hong Kong
  • Macau
  • Taiwan

Simply put, you could transit in a Category I country on the outbound leg of your journey, without any impact on your eligibility to take a VTL flight back to Singapore. 

⚠️ Exceptions
There are two exceptions to this rule: Australia and South Korea. Both these VTL countries require passengers to take non-stop flights from Singapore in order to qualify for a quarantine exemption on arrival (and South Korea requires that your 14-day travel history only features Singapore/South Korea).

Within Category I, neither Taiwan nor China allows transit passengers at the moment (and Air Macau doesn’t serve Singapore), so Hong Kong is the most realistic example.

SIN-HKG-SFO-SIN; a valid routing for VTL travel back to Singapore

You could travel from Singapore to San Francisco via Hong Kong, spend 7 days in the USA, then return to Singapore on a VTL flight. Your 14-day travel history contains Singapore, Hong Kong (Category I) and the USA (VTL), so all’s good.

By that same token, you could transit in Hong Kong en route to any other VTL country, although it’s somewhat less efficient to fly to Hong Kong and then to Europe (because you’re going the “wrong way”).

✈️ VTL Countries Served by Cathay Pacific
  • Canada (Toronto, Vancouver)
  • France (Paris)
  • Germany (Frankfurt)
  • Italy (Milan)
  • Netherlands (Amsterdam)
  • Spain (Madrid)
  • UK (London, Manchester)
  • United States (Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco)

…but not on the return leg

You’ll notice how careful I’ve been to emphasise outbound in the previous section. 

When returning to Singapore, you will still need to take a VTL flight if you want to enter Singapore under VTL conditions (i.e. no quarantine).

✈️ VTL flights

For example, if you fly from San Francisco to Hong Kong to Singapore, you will enter Singapore under Category II conditions, because the USA is part of Category II (remember, the highest category in your 14-day history applies). 

SIN-SFO-HKG-SIN; not a valid routing for VTL travel back to Singapore

Practical applications

If you’re the sort who buys tickets with cash, the new rule is unlikely to have much of an impact on you. Since one-way tickets are so expensive, it’s highly unlikely you’d fly with Cathay Pacific on the outbound leg and Singapore Airlines on the return. 

However, it’s a completely different ballgame if you’re redeeming tickets with miles. One-way awards typically price at 50% of a round-trip, so it’d make perfect sense to redeem a one-way ticket with Cathay Pacific on the outbound leg and a one-way ticket with Singapore Airlines on the return. 

tl;dr: While your flight options to Singapore are still restricted (because of the need to take a VTL flight), you’ll have a slightly wider range to choose from out of Singapore.

Conclusion

Allowing Category I countries to be part of a VTL traveller’s 14-day travel history is sensible, and frankly should have been considered at the onset. Better to fix it late than never, I suppose.

If you’re headed to the USA or Canada in particular, it’s worth checking if Cathay Pacific has any award space available (just a shame they’ve reintroduced fuel surcharges).

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Adam

The cynic in me thinks that they didn’t implement this at the start because they didn’t want to give business to CX over SQ…

Jasmine

Ask I guess it’s the reason that turkey still no VTL become tk airlines will get some many businesses from SQ…lol

Freddy

I guess people can make use of the SIN-HKG-SFO route from SIA? Booking CX is risky right now. People at Flyertalk keep complaining about how unreliable CX’s schedule is.

Adam

in a way i found this also absurd – ppl ard the world (say cat 4 countries) can transit in HK and board the same flight to SFO together with those orginated from SIN. this VTL thing really looks like trying to help SQ’s direct flight only

Adam

with the US opening up, i doubt how far this VTL can reach…

hmlee

vtl should include cat 1 countries like HK, then it will give people more flight options

ZYX

The VTL now is never about “more flight options”…There is even a cap on no. of passengers can come in via VTL.
Plus HK now is in Cat I. Why downgrade to VTL?

bent

HK doesnt want us.

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