On Monday this week we got our first progress update from the Singapore Government on the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) for quarantine-free arrivals in Singapore, with passengers now arriving on the scheme from both Germany and Brunei for the last two weeks.
Transport Minister S Iswaran was upbeat about the success of the programme so far, stating that “the outcome in the first two weeks of this scheme [has] been very promising”, also adding “[we] have basically operationalised the key requirements”.
“[The VTL] is the first step, but a very important step for us to understand the requirements for all those involved in the value chain, to get used to the idea of travelling, ensuring compliance and delivering the kind of safe outcomes that we seek.
“[All] the VTL travellers have complied with the repeated testing regime as well. So, this is a good sign.”
The Transport Minister also revealed that Singapore is actively working on expanding the Vaccinated Travel Lane scheme “in the coming weeks and months”, music to the ears of travel-hungry residents looking forward to some fresh alternatives (no offence, Germany!).
One positive case
It was confirmed to the media that among over 900 people that have already travelled to Singapore under the VTL, there has been only one COVID-19 positive case.
This was detected from the on-arrival test at Changi Airport (see our guide to the arrival process). The individual would therefore have been in self-isolation while awaiting the test result, either at home or in a hotel room.
So far that’s around a 0.1% positive case rate, which is impressive.
In Germany, 8% of COVID-19 tests administered nationally were coming back positive in the week ending 12th September 2021 (though in fairness most of those 140,000+ individuals were being tested because they had symptoms, not because they wanted to travel).
- Must have stayed in a VTL country/region and/or Singapore for 21 days
- Travel to the VTL country on a non-stop flight, if your stay is less than 21 days
- Travel to Singapore on a designated ‘VTL flight’
- No restrictions on travel purpose or itineraries
- Must be fully vaccinated in Singapore or the VTL origin country
- Children under 12 are not eligible
- Visitors and Singapore pass holders must apply for a VTP in advance
- Four COVID-19 PCR tests replace quarantine / Stay-Home Notice in Singapore
Full details available here
Who is travelling on the VTL?
Recently there was an interesting analysis of recent indicators on Singapore – Germany flights from ForwardKeys, an analytics company that uses global ticketing data from online bookings, travel agencies and airlines to determine travel trends.
Key takeaways included:
- Demand in both directions on Singapore – Germany routes increased significantly after the VTL was announced.
- Demand for travel from Singapore to Germany was more than double that from Germany to Singapore.
- Singapore – Germany bookings reached 93% of pre-COVID levels in the two weeks to 3rd September 2021 (Germany – Singapore reached only 18%).
- Leisure travellers make up the majority of those flying from Singapore to Germany (76%), up from 43% pre-COVID.
- Surprisingly, the average length of stay for leisure travellers has only increased from 13 days pre-COVID to 15 days now.
- More than 1 in 6 travellers (17%) heading from Singapore to Germany were expats and/or those visiting friends and relatives (just 1% pre-COVID).
- Very few bookings were for business travel (6% vs. 35% pre-COVID).
- Advance bookings reduce significantly in the less popular early November period, but already exceed launch totals in the run up to the festive season.
It’s an early snapshot, but still quite fascinating, especially the predominance of leisure travel over business demand.
There’s also the dramatic rise in VFR demand, as Singapore-based expats and Singaporeans with relatives overseas use the VTL to meet up with friends and family from around Europe and the rest of the world, who are also able to visit Germany.
The lower demand from Germany to Singapore is to be expected of course – Germans already have many quarantine-free holiday options closer to home, and business travel is still likely to be limited.
First and Business Class are popular
While VTL flights are operating far from full, good news for the airlines is that demand for First Class and Business Class is buoyant, based on the services we’ve been monitoring since the scheme began, with some flights sold out in these cabins.
Economy Class is less popular, perhaps as people prioritise increased personal space while travelling during this period, even though business travel itself is well down on pre-COVID levels.
Here’s how the seat maps in these cabins already look on some upcoming Germany – Singapore flights this month.
Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa won’t be complaining too much about the increased revenue these flights will be generating, compared to the poor loads they have seen over the last 18 months.
Our VTL experience
We travelled over to Frankfurt earlier this month and flew back via the inaugural Germany – Singapore VTL flight on 7th September 2021.
Here’s a step-by-step summary of our experience, which may help you decide whether to give it a try yourself.