Announcement of Asia’s first travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong sparked the rise of bookings and led to sold out flights. Could it be the way to resume international travel in the near future?
Flights between the two cities are scheduled to start on November 22, 2020. There will be one daily flight carrying a maximum of 200 passengers. The inaugural flight SQ890 from Singapore to Hong Kong will be departing at 10am on November 22, 2020.
The flights will be operated by Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY) (SIA) and Cathay Pacific. Both airlines will be using their smaller aircraft – Airbus A350-900s – for the flights.
Prices for the SIA flight in economy started at S$800 ($593) and went up to S$1000 ($741) due to a high demand.
“The air travel bubble arrangement is an important step for both Singapore and Hong Kong as we rebuild from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and supports the ongoing recovery of the airline industry,” said SIA CEO Goh Choon Phong.
Both Singapore and Hong Kong have low numbers of COVID-19 cases to create a travel bubble. As of November 11, 2020, both Hong Kong and Singapore have 18 new confirmed cases. If the number of new cases does not radically increase, there will be two daily flights between the two cities by December 7, 2020.
The travel bubble will permit travelers to fly to each other’s countries without the need to quarantine. However, a negative COVID-19 test must be presented before boarding the flight. Pre-departure tests in Hong Kong will cost HK$240 ($31) and up to S$200 ($170) in Singapore.
“This policy is not easy to come by,” Hong Kong Commerce and Economic Development Secretary Edward Yau Tang-wah said during the announcement. “Whether the bubble can work and sustain (itself) well will depend on cooperation from all sides, including the participation of residents and their efforts in maintaining social distancing.”
Travel bubble model could be a way to resume international travel for the near future. “We believe that this will be a milestone showcase for the opening of more, similar air travel bubbles with other popular destinations in the region and beyond,” said Cathay Pacific chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam.
Hong Kong – Singapore route is one of the busiest Asia Pacific international routes, according to the OAG statistics. SIA and Cathay Pacific have been among the hardest hit during the pandemic as the majority of their markets are international routes. On November 6, 2020, Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY) reported a record S$2.34 billion ($1.74 billion) net loss for the July-September quarter.