Hong Kong and Singapore have officially set a new date for their air travel bubble: May 26th. Passengers from the two cities can travel quarantine-free once the bubble is launched, subject to some conditions. However, this isn’t the first time the bubble has been finalized, with the previous attempt being suspended due to rising cases. Here’s what we know about the upcoming Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble.
Back in action
After two months of discussions, Hong Kong and Singapore have officially reached a new date for their much-awaited air travel bubble. The bubble will commence exactly one month from today, on 26th May, and allow travelers to move between the countries quarantine-free for the first time in over a year.
This time around, the conditions for the travel bubble look a bit different. For starters, travelers from Hong Kong will need to be fully vaccinated for at least 14 days before flying. Hong Kong has added this condition to encourage its residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Singapore does not have a vaccination requirement for its citizens to travel under the bubble.
Aside from the vaccination, other procedures for travelers remain the same. Passengers traveling from either city must test negative prior to departure and at the arrival airport. These two mutually recognized tests ensure that no infections are being carried into the cities. Once travelers meet these conditions (and download the needed contact tracing apps), they are free to visit the cities as they wish!
To be eligible for the air travel bubble, residents must be living in Hong Kong or Singapore for at least 14 days before flying. These two weeks cannot include the mandatory quarantine in either place and must be outside only. This step has been taken to combat any new variants of the virus that may have a longer incubation period.
Will it happen?
Travelers in both destinations are understandably excited to begin flying once again. Due to their size, neither location has its own domestic market, limiting options for travelers and airlines alike. Moreover, Hong Kong and Singapore have some of the strictest entry and quarantine restrictions, making international travel difficult for most.
The travel bubble will be a respite for thousands of residents hoping to step out of their islands and get on planes again. However, many still remember the letdown from last November, when the bubble was delayed, and then pulled, just one day before launch.
It has taken over six months since the travel bubble was first pulled to set a new date, creating some anxiety among travelers. Sadly, there is no way to guarantee that the bubble won’t be put off one more time if cases rise in either destination.
However, Hong Kong has managed to contain its fourth wave of cases after months of efforts, raising hopes that the bubble will work this time. Meanwhile, Singapore has kept cases low for months and hopefully won’t pose any challenges to the bubble.
The bubble will be suspended for two weeks if the seven-day moving average rises to over five unlinked cases in either city. However, this time, the bubble will only resume once the seven-day moving average is below five for the last three days of the suspension (instead of one day previously).
Perhaps the most befitting comparison to the Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble is the one established between Australia and New Zealand last week. The trans-Tasman bubble kicked off on 19th April to much fanfare on both sides. Like their Asian counterparts, both countries across the Tasman Sea have managed to contain COVID-19 and keep cases low.
However, not everything has been smooth with the week-old Australia-New Zealand bubble. New cases in Perth and Peel forced the bubble to the state of Western Australia to be paused temporarily. Once cases are traced and contained in the state, travel will resume. The bubble to other Australian states remains intact.
However, any travel bubble requires trust that both governments are capable of controlling outbreaks when they emerge. So while there might be pauses, travel will eventually resume once cases are controlled.
For Hong Kong and Singapore, both cities have proven they are more than capable of crushing outbreaks when they arise. However, it is likely that the bubble will be paused at some point, despite vaccines being rolled out.
Big news for airlines
For airlines in both cities, the air travel bubble will be big news. With no domestic markets to serve, the carriers have been desperately awaiting a chance to fill up their jets once again. Expect to see airlines roll out some of their flagship aircraft on this route (though likely not the A380).
Singapore Airlines and Scoot have long been waiting for this travel agreement, in hopes that it will see high demand and revenues. Both carriers have taken deep losses as Singapore’s borders remain closed and international travel remains negligible.
Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific, subsidiary HK Express, and Hong Kong Airlines have all struggled greatly due to the pandemic. The carriers were already reeling from low passenger demand and losses due to protests in 2019. The pandemic then crippled business, with flag carrier Cathay Pacific seeing passenger numbers fall to just a tiny fraction of previous levels.
For now, one month remains before the long-awaited travel bubble kicks off. A lot could change in this span of time, most critically, the epidemiological situation in either city, resulting in the bubble being pushed back again. However, with vaccines now available, there is hope that this attempt at the Hong Kong-Singapore bubble will be successful.
What do you think about the future of the Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble? Will it begin next month? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!