The Singaporean and Australian Governments have joined forces to work on a travel bubble between the two countries. Ministers in both Governments are reportedly working on the plan. If all goes well, relatively unimpeded travel between the two countries could resume by mid-year.
A busy airline route that needs a reboot
Normally millions of people travel between Singapore and Australia (or vice versa) each year. In 2019, the busiest international route in and out of Australia was between Melbourne and Singapore. Four of the ten busiest routes in and out of Australia in 2019 were to and from Singapore.
According to Australian Government statistics, 5,890,913 passengers flew between Australia and Singapore in 2019. In that same year, there were 24,714 flights between the two countries with an average load utilization of 83.9%. Multiple airlines flew the sector, including Qantas, Singapore Airlines, British Airways, Emirates, Jetstar, Scoot, and Silk Air.
In contrast, the only airline offering regular services between Singapore and Australia for the past 12 months has been Singapore Airlines. They’ve maintained scaled-back services to Australia. Throughout 2020, just 1,241,714 people traveled between the two countries, a decline of 78.9%.
Deputy PM flags a travel bubble in July
However, given both Singapore and Australia are experiencing minimal levels of COVID-19, both Governments are eyeing each other as potential travel bubble partners.
“We’re working with Singapore at the moment, potentially for a bubble in July,” Australia’s Deputy PM, Michael McCormack, told the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday. “These are positive signs, and as the vaccine rolls out, not only in Australia but in other countries, we will reopen more bubbles.”
Any potential travel bubble hinges not only on rates of infections remaining low in both countries but also on mutual recognition of vaccination passports.
The two big players on the Singapore – Australia routes are Singapore Airlines and Qantas. The two airlines flew 4,613,182 passengers between the two countries in 2019, commanding a 78.3% market share. It’s a tasty piece of business both airlines are keen to see resume.
“Singapore is very keen to work with Australia on a proof of vaccination certificate, and we agreed our officials should work together on this,” Australia’s Trade Minister, Dan Tehan, told The Sydney Morning Herald.
Both Singapore Airlines & Qantas trialing digital health passes
Singapore Airlines began trialing a digital health verification process using IATA’s Travel Pass in late 2020. In the latter half of March, passengers flying between the United Kingdom and Singapore have been asked to use the digital pass as part of the trial, helping to iron out any wrinkles.
Meanwhile, Qantas ran its first customer trial of the CommonPass digital health app on a repatriation flight last week. Qantas is also looking at IATA’s Travel Pass.
“Longer term, we’d like to integrate the technology with our existing Qantas app so that our customers can manage all parts of their journey in the one place,” says Qantas Group Chief Customer Officer Stephanie Tully.
“We look forward to supporting the efforts of Qantas, the Australian government, and the nation’s healthcare system to safely reopen the country to international travel.”
Besides facilitating tourist traffic, the travel bubble between Singapore and Australia can potentially help reboot the normally substantial business travel, student travel, and VFR travel between the two countries. Singapore has also been mooted as a proposed pitstop for Australian’s needing to quarantine before they can fly home. It’s an ambitious plan. However, it has a half-decent chance of succeeding if everything holds up.
What do you think the chances of a travel bubble between Singapore and Australia happening by mid-year are? Post a comment and let us know.