Travel bubble not part of flight resumption talks with India: CAAS

Singapore and India are in talks about resuming scheduled commercial passenger flights gradually between the two countries.

However, Singapore is not discussing an air travel bubble arrangement with India in which leisure travel can resume, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has said.

Air travel bubbles, such as the one agreed between Singapore and Hong Kong, would give travellers special exemption from quarantine rules. The resumption of commercial flights would not automatically come with such exemptions, unless agreed upon by countries.

The CAAS issued the clarification on Wednesday evening in response to queries about comments made by India's High Commissioner to Singapore P. Kumaran.

Mr Kumaran told American news outlet CNBC on Monday that talks were under way to restore air connectivity between India and Singapore. He was responding to a question about the possibility of an air travel bubble between the two countries.

He added that both sides have shown a "fair amount of interest" to try and enhance the connectivity between the two countries.

The comments sparked concerns among many Singaporeans online. Several people questioned the logic of setting up an air travel bubble arrangement with India, given the high number of imported cases originating from the country.

Singapore has had only one air travel bubble arrangement so far. But that arrangement with Hong Kong has been indefinitely postponed after the number of Covid-19 cases rose in the territory.

On Wednesday, CAAS director of air transport Daniel Ng said: "Countries may have different understanding on what an air travel bubble is.

"Singapore is not discussing an air travel bubble arrangement with India as Singaporeans understand it to be."

He added that air travel between Singapore and India is currently restricted to only special repatriation flights chartered by the Indian government.

There is interest from both countries to explore resuming scheduled commercial passenger flights between them gradually, Mr Ng said.

"Travellers will be subject to travel restrictions, border and health measures, such as testing and stay-home notices," he added, noting that discussions are ongoing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2021, with the headline 'Travel bubble not part of flight resumption talks with India: CAAS'. Subscribe