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Singapore and Hong Kong propose air travel bubble

Hong Kong Airport is hoping to reopen to arrivals from Singapore soon.

Hong Kong’s biggest airline, Cathay Pacific, has welcomed the announcement of an in-principle Air Travel Bubble (ATB) arrangement with Singapore.

After seven months of border lockdown, the governments of the two financial hubs are now proposing to open up to one another.

Compulsory quarantine for arrivals in both cities will be replaced with coronavirus tests.

According to Singaporean transport minister Ong Ye Kung, the bubble could start within “weeks”. The agreement has been confirmed by Hong Kong’s commerce and development minister, Edward Yau.

Before the pandemic hit, around one million trips were made annually between Hong Kong and Singapore. However, both cities closed their borders to non-residents in March, with airlines particularly hard hit as they have not been able to fall back on a domestic market.

“We are grateful to the authorities in Hong Kong and Singapore for reaching this agreement,” said Cathay Pacific’s chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam. “It will enable passengers travelling between the two cities to do so without any restrictions… nor with any quarantine requirements for those with negative test results.”

Key features of the ATB include no restrictions on travel purpose, no quarantine or Stay-Home Notice in either city and no controlled itinerary requirements.

However, travellers will be required to travel on dedicated flights assigned for ATB passengers only. The scheme can also be scaled upwards or downwards or suspended altogether depending on covid developments in both cities.

Business travellers will be given priority in the initial stages of the travel bubble and participants must have been in Hong Kong or Singapore for 14 days before departure. They will also be required to take a PCR test, or tests, recognised by both cities.

The Hong Kong government has indicated that more detail will be worked out in the coming weeks along with an official launch date.

“It is significant that our two regional aviation hubs have decided to collaborate to establish an Air Travel Bubble,” said Ong. “It is a safe, careful but significant step forward to revive air travel, and provide a model for future collaboration with other parts of the world.”

“We look forward to receiving further information regarding details of (the bubble’s) implementation and will work together with the authorities to ensure a safe and secure environment throughout all the stages of travel,” said Lam in a press statement.


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