Yesterday we wrote about how rising COVID-19 case numbers in Hong Kong meant a postponement of the Air Travel Bubble between the city and Singapore, originally slated to commence on 22nd November but pushed back by at least two weeks just hours before it got off the ground, was likely to be extended until 2021.
Today the governments of Hong Kong and Singapore have confirmed that the ATB will definitely not be started this year, dashing hopes of an overseas trip over the Christmas and New Year period.
In view of the recent developments of the COVID-19 epidemic in Hong Kong, the Governments of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and Singapore have decided to defer the commencement of the Hong Kong-Singapore Air Travel Bubble (ATB) to beyond 2020 and will review the arrangement for 2021 towards late December.Government of Hong Kong SAR
When the ATB was postponed on 21st November 2020, authorities said the inaugural flights, set to depart the following morning, would initially be postponed by two weeks.
That pushed the provisional new start date of the ATB to 6th December 2020, though of course with daily average unliked case totals now more than triple the ‘circuit breaker’ limit for the arrangement, that will clearly be unachievable.
Hong Kong daily new COVID-19 cases
Data: Hong Kong CHP
As we mentioned in our recent article, it’s unlinked cases that matter as far as the ATB is concerned, but that trend isn’t looking great either.
Despite a lower total of unlinked COVID-19 cases reported in the city yesterday (9 vs. 24 the previous day), the 7-day average remains high and may yet increase further depending on how the ‘fourth wave’ of infections unfolds.
The decision on a further deferral of the launch date of the ATB was taken in view of the severity of the epidemic situation in Hong Kong with the number of local cases of unknown sources increasing rapidly.Government of Hong Kong SAR
What if you have a booking?
If you’re already booked on one of SIA or Cathay Pacific’s ATB flights, a full refund with all fees waived is now being offered by both carriers in light of the further postponement.
Alternatively, you can also rebook a different date for no fee (fare difference may apply).
Customers will be able to rebook or request a full refund of their tickets, with cancellation fees waived via our Assistance Request form. The refund will be accorded to the passengers’ original mode of payment for unutilised portion(s) of their tickets (including non-refundable tickets).Singapore Airlines
SIA adds, “if you booked via a travel agent, please contact them for assistance”.
We will refund or change travel dates without charge for anyone due to travel during the suspension period.Cathay Pacific
If you are still eligible to travel between Singapore and Hong Kong, note that all flights operated for the rest of 2020 will be non-ATB services, which means regular quarantine or SHN requirements apply on arrival.
New target: 2021
Authorities are taking the sensible approach to have another look at the COVID-19 situation in both cities towards the end of December 2020 before announcing a new inaugural date for the Air Travel Bubble flights.
Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific were originally operating a total of seven weekly ATB flights in each direction on the city pair, rising to 14 weekly in early December 2020, and we expect when the arrangement gets the green light for a second time a very similar schedule will be revealed.
Given the lead time for flight arrangements and for bookings to come in, we would expect that means the ATB could potentially restart by mid-January 2021, provided the case numbers support a safe resumption.
Once we have more details and we can get booking again, we’ll let you know all about the start date and flight schedules.
Until then, it looks like Christmas and New Year here in Singapore for most of us!