With vaccination certificates and negative PCR test results in hand, we headed to Frankfurt Airport nice and early in preparation for the inaugural Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) flight between Germany and Singapore.
This was an exciting trip, marking the first time in 18 months that travellers on board arriving in Singapore from Frankfurt would be doing so quarantine-free under the new VTL scheme.
The pilot programme is designed for further expansion, hopefully covering arrivals from other COVID-safe countries in the months ahead, so we were obviously keen to jump on board the first service to share our experience with you all.
Here’s a reminder of the checklist of items you’ll need to have with you before you head to the airport to check in for your VTL flight.
VTL Departure checklist
|COVID-19 vaccination certificate|
|Valid visa / VTP (if required)|
|Negative COVID-19 PCR test result (within 48h)|
|QR code receipt of Singapore Health Declaration|
|S$30,000+ COVID-19 insurance coverage (visitors only)|
|Mobile device with the TraceTogether app|
We arrived at Frankfurt Airport at around 6.15pm, well in advance of the flight departure time of 10pm, just in case there were any issues with our PCR tests.
SIA’s check in counters at Frankfurt Airport open 3 hours before the scheduled flight departure time according to the Singapore Airlines website, though we called ahead to check and in fact they are currently opening 4 hours before departure.
Whether that’s a temporary arrangement due to the additional VTL paperwork we’re not sure, but we find that counter opening times at many airports on the network are often earlier than SIA states on its website.
There’s a testing facility at the airport we had used the previous day (Centogene), so we thought it would be a good idea to check in for the flight while that as still open, just in case we had to have any corrections to our certificates made, or in the worst case take another (expensive) test with a quick 35/75 minute turnaround time!
It’s worth bearing in mind if you’re departing from Frankfurt that the Centogene test centre at the airport closes at 8pm, with the last 35-minute test available at 7pm and the last 75-minute test available at 8pm.
As it turned out the PCR tests were perfectly fine, it was the vaccination element the check-in staff were more concerned with.
In the Singapore Airlines VTL guide it mentions that you can show your vaccination status through the HealthHub app at check-in, but frankly it was simpler just to hand a printed copy of the Singapore vaccination certificate from the Notarise service.
The agents really need to see where you were vaccinated (i.e. in Singapore or Germany), so unfortunately the TraceTogether app doesn’t cut it here, since it does not mention your vaccination location like the full certificate does.
Staff were excited about the launch of the VTL, but the additional checks were taking some time.
In total it took about 30 minutes to complete the check-in process, which is obviously far longer than usual, but this was the inaugural VTL service and the staff were still ‘feeling their way’ a little with the requirements and ensuring all the relevant certificates and approvals were in place before checking each passenger in.
Be prepared to provide:
- Identity Card (for Singapore PRs and LTP holders)
- Vaccination certificate
- Negative PCR test
- TraceTogether app
- VTP approval (for visitors and LTP holders)
One passenger checking in alongside us was unfortunately refused for the flight, because he had been in another country (other than Singapore or Germany) during the last 21 days. This is the first question the check-in staff will ask you.
Immigration and security
Immigration is the next hurdle, but there are no additional steps required when travelling on a VTL flight compared to a normal international departure.
Security at Frankfurt Airport has separate lane for Business and First Class passengers, though when we passed through it was quiet and so there was no major benefit.
In common with most European airports, it’s a full body scan method, and you’ll have to take out any liquids, laptops and tablets for separate screening.
With all the high touch surfaces around it didn’t feel very clean, so it’s worth having your own hand sanitiser to apply once you’ve passed through. Dispensers are provided in the terminal, but we found they don’t always have any liquid left!
Once we passed through immigration and security screening we made our way to the Lufthansa Senator Lounge in the B gates area.
It’s worth noting that most shops in the airside area were closed as we passed through, however there were some convenience stores and restaurants available for those who don’t have lounge access.
To access the Lufthansa Senator Lounge near gate B43, you also need to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination. Alternatively, you must have a negative COVID-19 test (PCR or ART, maximum 24 hours old), or proof of recovery.
For passengers using the VTL, full vaccination is a requirement anyway – so this is not a big concern.
Unlike at check-in, in this instance the lounge staff were happy with the fully vaccinated status shown on our TraceTogether app as proof of vaccination, which makes life a bit easier.
Germany uses the ‘luca’ app for contact tracing in locations like bars and restaurants, and in the Lufthansa lounges themselves.
Unfortunately, while you can download this app even if your mobile device is registered in Singapore, the OTP (TAN) activation code will only send to a European phone number, so like most of our readers, we couldn’t use it.
At the Lufthansa lounge, we were therefore handed a registration form to complete (one per person / couple or family), to aid with contact tracing if required.
The lounge itself has a manned bar, several seating and relaxation areas, and some dining options.
Perhaps most importantly though, if you’ve had to leave your hotel at lunchtime and are taking the 10pm SQ325 departure to Frankfurt, there are plenty of spacious shower suites to freshen up before the journey.
Watch out for our full review of the Lufthansa Senator lounge coming soon.
Once it came to boarding itself there were no further checks made specific to the VTL nature of the flight, and we settled in to First Class for the long flight home.
Since all the appropriate documents had been verified at the check-in desk, it was boarding as usual, and you can then settle in and relax until the next stage of the journey… the arrival process!
(Cover Photo: Shutterstock)