News Singapore Airlines

24 hours on the same plane – SIA’s new transit approval for UK passengers

Singapore Airlines is once again able to sell transit itineraries from the UK to Sydney and Auckland, but passengers must remain on board during the stopover in Changi.

With the United Kingdom suffering a severe wave of COVID-19 infections from a new and more contagious strain of the virus, many countries have clamped down on accepting those who have recently visited or live in the country from crossing their borders, with Singapore being no exception.

Since 23rd December 2020, only Singapore citizens and permanent residents who have been in the UK during the last 14 days are permitted to enter or transit Singapore.

This move most prominently affected those flying the popular UK to South West Pacific routes, such as London to Sydney, with some families finding themselves split up between those eligible to fly and those not.

SIA’s solution

Singapore Airlines now has a solution for these travellers that satisfies the authorities and restores this key traffic component on two specific routes:

  • London to Auckland
  • London to Sydney

This requires the airline to operate the same aircraft on designated London – Singapore flights that then go on to fly from Singapore to Auckland or Singapore to Sydney, with a minimal transit time at Changi.

While passengers destined for Singapore will disembark as usual and a crew change will take place, those continuing their journey to Australia or New Zealand will remain on board throughout the transit. They will also be seated separately from London – Singapore passengers.

Passengers from London to Auckland or Sydney will sit separately from those travelling from point-to-point. (Photo: Singapore Airlines)

The first passengers to take advantage of this new option were on board SQ317 from London to Singapore on 29th December 2020, according to the Australian Financial Review. The same Airbus A350 aircraft (9V-SMK) continued to Auckland as SQ281 the following morning after a 90-minute turnaround at Changi.

Timings for LHR-AKL

The following day SQ317 was paired with SQ211 to Sydney, with a slightly longer turnaround of 2 hours 40 minutes in that case, offset by a shorter second flight for a quicker journey overall.

Timings for LHR-SYD

Aircraft used for SQ317 flights have been continuing to operate to Auckland and Sydney on alternate days in line with the above schedule.

It’s more complicated, but not much

These itineraries are nothing new – they were always timed this way to facilitate quick London – Australia / NZ connections, though the difference this time compared to before is that there’s no opportunity for passengers to stretch their legs in the terminal or get a shower in the lounge between flights.

Currently, most passengers in transit at Changi are escorted to a ‘Transit Holding Area’ or transit hotel before being taken to their onward departure gate. This was also the case for UK to Australia / NZ passengers until 23rd December.

For Singapore Airlines, the complication is assigning the same aircraft to specific flight combinations. Previously, you’d rarely board the exact same plane to continue your journey in these cases, even when the planned aircraft type was the same.

A new crew will operate onward flights to Australia and New Zealand, but the aircraft will remain the same. (Photo: Kittikun Yoksap / Shutterstock)

There are also additional cabin security checks for the new crew boarding at Changi, while passengers remain on board with their hand luggage prior to general boarding, though this is something the airline is already used to dealing with (e.g. in Johannesburg, before a Cape Town flight).

24 hours on the same plane is a long time

We miss flying but the thought of 24 continuous hours on board the same aircraft is a painful one, even in Business Class.

Combine that with mandatory mask wearing for nearly the entire journey, except when eating or drinking, and there will be some bleary-eyed and highly relieved passengers disembarking these flights in Auckland and Sydney.

Working hard: SIA’s Airbus A350s are currently taking care of the carrier’s entire long-haul programme, including these London, Auckland and Sydney flights. (Photo: Transport Pixels)

Unfortunately with airlines like Cathay Pacific simply cancelling their London flights over the coming weeks there is little alternative choice remaining for those who still need to travel, with SIA services representing one of the few UK to Australia / NZ connections.

Summary

With transit passengers making up a large proportion of SIA’s passenger loads on London to Singapore flights, the latest restrictions enforced just before Christmas were a blow to the airline, currently operating the route twice daily.

This solution is now allowing Singapore Airlines to carry transit passengers to two key cities, provided they don’t get off the aircraft at Changi, though it means 24 hours on the same plane for those travelling via this arrangement.

We certainly feel for passengers enduring such a long journey without a decent opportunity to stretch their legs, but it’s great that Singapore Airlines has been able to quickly restore this connection for them at a time of very limited travel options.

The airline has stated the new transit flights are primarily for those with existing bookings, whose plans had potentially been altered due to the suspension, but we noticed some seats on upcoming flights still available for booking.

(Cover Photo: Singapore Airlines)

12 comments

  1. I wonder if passengers from Singapore will be able to board the flights to Sydney and Auckland since that would mean mixing with the passengers from London.

      1. It doesnt say that….it says those going London to Australiasia will be separate from those going London to Singapore. It is silent on people boarding in Singapore .

  2. unfortunately this seems to be a money making exercise. Mixing very safe Singapore passengers with heavily infected UK with new variant virus in the same plane. I don’t think these passengers should be paying a premium for such an airline. Can they sue SIA if they get infected?

    1. Well, are the healthy people going to sue their friends and family members if they get infected by friends or family, over unnecessary gatherings, especially over the festive period? Are they going to sue the bus company if they get infected while in public transportation? Are they going to sue a supermarket if they get infected while getting their essential groceries? Are they going sue the Ministry of Education if their kids get infected by other kids.

      I think you get what I am trying to say.

      1. I get your point but I think you missed mine. SG and Australia have ringfenced their residents from external threats rather successfully. Travel between 2 safe countries should be – safe. Mixing travellers from an unsafe country now makes such travel – unsafe. Why would Australia reciprocate SG’s Green lane arrangement now?

      1. Well, if Australians allow their own residents to fly back from the UK then they will bear the risk for their residents. If you accept distancing works then the arrangements will work. It is all a part of taking risks to fly these days, or even doing anything in life.

        If the time comes for a Singapore-Australia ATB, then of course it will be on different flights. But for now, all returning residents to Australia are subject to the same 14-day quarantine anyway, UK or not.

  3. I have paid $1800 to fly econony one way singapore to auckland and I will demand a refund from SIA if there will be UK sourced peolle on the plane…no bloody way

  4. I have an upcoming flight with SA from London to Auckland but it has a transit time of 18hrs in Changi. Will this flight still be going ahead with these changes, it is on the 3rd of Feb

  5. I think some commentators are forgetting that all passengers have to have a PCR test within 72 hours of boarding so the risk is mitigated for pax boarding in SIN.

    I’m wondering whether the same arrangement is in place for the return journey. The article is silent

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