SIA, Scoot launch more flights to tap expected demand for quarantine-free travel

The moves comes after an announcement that Singapore will extend the Vaccinated Travel Lane scheme to nine more countries in the coming weeks. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Flag carrier Singapore Airlines (SIA) will ramp up its designated flights to bring vaccinated travellers into Singapore under an expanded quarantine-free travel scheme.

Meanwhile, SIA's budget arm Scoot will resume three-times weekly non-stop flights between Singapore and Berlin.

The moves come after the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore announced on Saturday (Oct 9) that Singapore will extend the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme to nine more countries in the coming weeks.

From Oct 19, vaccinated travellers be able to fly to Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Britain and the United States.

The scheme will be extended to South Korea from Nov 15, the Ministry of Transport had said on Friday (Oct 8).

The update means that Singapore will have VTLs with 11 countries by Nov 15. The Republic had earlier started VTLs with Brunei and Germany.

All 11 countries, except Brunei, are already open to travellers from Singapore, or will be open by the time the VTL starts.

This would allow Singapore residents to travel, including for leisure, and return without a stay-home notice requirement.

Travellers have to fly into Singapore on designated flights, as part of various requirements under the scheme.

They must also fly out of Singapore on a designated flight to South Korea but there is no such requirement for travel to other VTL countries.

SIA said on Saturday afternoon (Oct 9) that it will operate VTL services from Amsterdam, Barcelona, Copenhagen, London, Los Angeles, Milan, New York, Paris, and Rome starting October 19.

SIA's VTL services from Seoul will begin on Nov 16.

It currently operates VTL services from Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei, and from Frankfurt and Munich in Germany.

SIA said multi-city itineraries within VTL countries are allowed if customers meet the 14-day travel history requirement, which includes transit countries.

For example, a traveller may fly from Singapore to Paris, and then Paris to Amsterdam, and still be eligible for the VTL flight from Amsterdam to Singapore.

Mr Lee Lik Hsin, executive vice-president of commercial at SIA, said: "Singapore's expansion of the VTL arrangements to 11 countries is great news for our customers, who can now reunite with their loved ones more easily or finally go on that overseas holiday."

He said the measures to reopen Singapore to quarantine-free international travel will enable the safe and gradual recovery of Changi Airport as a major air hub.

Scoot said on top of resuming three-times weekly non-stop flights between Singapore and Berlin on Oct 19, it will also increase the frequency of its non-VTL Singapore-Athens-Berlin return flights to four times a week with effect from Oct 17.

This means that from Oct 19, Scoot will operate daily flights between Singapore and Berlin.

Foreign carriers Air France and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines have also announced plans to launch VTLs between Singapore and Europe.

Air France will offer two weekly designated VTL flights from Paris from Oct 21.

Singapore will have VTLs with 11 countries by Nov 15. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Meanwhile, KLM will offer two weekly designated VTL flights from Amsterdam from Nov 1.

The expansion of the VTLs to nine countries in the coming weeks is Singapore's most ambitious move to reopen its borders since they were forced shut by the Covid-19 pandemic in March last year.

Mr Lim Ching Kiat, managing director of air hub development at Changi Airport Group, said the expansion marks another positive step towards the recovery of travel and connectivity for the Singapore air hub.

He said that the 11 VTL countries announced so far accounted for more than 6.7 million of Changi Airport's passenger traffic in 2019, before the pandemic struck.

This accounts for about 10 per cent of total passenger traffic.

But given that daily arrivals from VTL countries will be capped at 3,000 travellers daily, it means that volumes will be a fraction of what they were previously.

"The VTLs will make it easier for people to travel for business, leisure and to visit loved ones," said Mr Lim.

Mr Philip Goh, regional vice-president for Asia Pacific at the International Air Transport Association, welcomed Singapore's moves to further open up as well as to halve testing requirements.

"We look forward to more of such progressive and positive developments that will help to restart air travel," he said.

"International passenger demand is forecast to reach only about 44 per cent of pre-Covid-19 levels in 2022, so the journey to recovery for the aviation sector will be long, but positive strides forward in the restart will bring further confidence."

Meanwhile, the local hospitality industry is also looking forward to the return of more tourists.

Ms Kwee Wei-Lin, president of the Singapore Hotel Association (SHA), said the VTLs send a strong signal about Singapore's readiness for tourism recovery in the months ahead.

She added that the SHA's 160 member hotels are now in a strong position to welcome the arrival of more guests.

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