A hundred passengers travelling under a quarantine-free scheme have arrived from Germany, as Singapore takes a step forward in reopening its borders.
SQ325, operated by Singapore Airlines (SIA), touched down at 5.36pm yesterday. It departed Frankfurt at about 10pm local time on Tuesday, or 4am yesterday Singapore time.
The plane was expected to land at Changi Airport's Terminal 3 at 4.25pm yesterday, but arrived later due to a reroute to avoid Afghan airspace.
SQ325's landing marks the start of Singapore's Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme, which is open to Brunei and Germany.
Vaccinated travellers under the scheme will take up to four Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction tests in lieu of quarantine, and have to follow other conditions such as taking designated VTL flights.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said it has issued passes to travel under the VTL scheme to 1,412 travellers from Germany as at 11.59pm on Tuesday - 621 passes were issued to short-term visitors and the remaining 791 passes were issued to long-term pass holders.
Fully vaccinated Singaporeans and permanent residents do not need to apply for a pass to enter Singapore under the VTL.
One hundred travellers - comprising 57 short-term visitors, 15 long-term pass holders and 28 Singapore citizens and permanent residents - arrived on the first VTL flight yesterday.
Meanwhile, for Brunei, CAAS has issued 47 passes to short-term visitors and seven to long-term pass holders. Seven short-term visitors and five Singapore citizens/ PRs are expected to arrive on the first VTL flight from Brunei today.
Germany-based aviation journalist Andreas Spaeth, 55, who was on the first VTL flight from Germany, told The Straits Times he was happy to travel again on an SIA plane. He was travelling to Singapore as part of a media trip organised by SIA and the Singapore Tourism Board. He last visited Singapore in 2019.
"It is very heartening to get a feeling of more normality coming back to travel life, being able to go to Singapore again," he added.
Mr Spaeth said the immigration and Covid-19 testing process after he landed here went smoothly.
However, he was concerned that the administrative work required before the trip, such as booking the PCR tests and preparing the vaccination certification, might be too onerous for those who are not digitally savvy.
On whether he was concerned about the risk of Covid-19 infection here, Mr Spaeth said: "I feel safe in Singapore; the measures here are stricter than in Germany, and I am fully vaccinated... I am fairly confident one can have a good time here."
While Brunei remains closed to leisure travel, Germany has been open to travellers from the Republic since October last year. This means Singapore residents can use the VTL scheme to travel without quarantine in either country.
The VTL's successful start has brought relief to travel agents and would-be travellers, who had feared the scheme might be derailed, as with the Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble.
The bubble for quarantine-free travel was supposed to be launched last November, but was delayed several times on the back of unstable Covid-19 situations in both cities. It was cancelled last month without a single flight taking off.
Mr Steven Ler, president of the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore, said the first VTL flight has been a breakthrough from the unsuccessful air travel bubble with Hong Kong.
He added that the reopening to Germany is a good start for international leisure travel, with travel agents already receiving inquiries for trips to Germany for the year-end holidays.
"We hope to see things pick up a lot more, and that will give a lot more confidence to those who are still adopting a wait-and-see approach," said Mr Ler.