In a slightly unusual change, which we assume is related to the Omicron variant of COVID-19, local authorities have categorised France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK together with Category 4 countries and regions, as far as transits through Changi Airport are concerned.
There has been no formal reclassification of these four countries, which continue to have active Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs) and otherwise sit in Singapore’s Category 2 for immigration purposes, but this an interesting shift given that travellers can enter Singapore quarantine-free from these places.
The fact these four have been separated out so specifically doesn’t necessarily mean there will be any changes to the border measures for these locations (indeed we hope there won’t be).
It is interesting nonetheless that passengers departing from these countries with a connection through Changi will now be segregated from those starting their journeys in other Category 1, 2 and 3 countries, who will continue to be free to shop and use other facilities during their layover.
Singapore Airlines has also been ‘zeroing out’ VTL flight availability from these countries and some others like the USA in recent days, between now and mid-January, despite many of the flights not appearing to be full.
Changi transit requirements
Back in October we reported how transit passengers originating in Category 1 and 2 countries were now allowed to escape the transit holding ‘pens’ and roam the airport’s shops, dining outlets and lounges during their layover at the airport.
Now those flying from Category 3 countries are also eligible, effectively covering the entire SIA route network.
Only those with a 14-day travel history including a Category 4 country are usually relegated to one of the ‘Transit Holding Areas’ (THAs), though this list has now been expanded to include these four VTL countries.
- Transit freedom: Transiting travellers from Categories 1, 2 and 3 countries/regions (except for France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom).
Passengers can experience facilities as well as shopping and dining options within the departure transit area.
- Transit holding area: Transiting travellers from Category 4 countries/regions, plus France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
Transit Holding Areas
For those with Category 4 travel history, plus those originating in France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, there’s no eligibility to shop and dine with freedom during transit at Changi.
Instead it’s an escorted march to and from one of the airport’s Transit Holding Areas in store once your touch down in the Lion City.
Here you can purchase snacks and drinks from vending machines, or use an app for food delivery from selected airport F&B outlets.
There is also premium transit holding area for “participating airlines’ premium passengers”, including SIA First and Business Class customers and PPS Club members (note – not for KrisFlyer Elite Gold or Star Alliance Gold status holders), but by all accounts the experience is less than impressive.
Transit testing requirements
All passengers transiting through Changi must have a valid negative COVID-19 PCR or ART test taken no more than 48 hours before departure of their flight to Singapore in order to be allowed to board, regardless of vaccination status.
Transit time should not exceed 48 hours.
Transit Omicron cases
Last week two Singapore Airlines passengers who had transited through Changi from southern Africa to Sydney tested positive for the Omicron variant on arrival in Australia. They had been segregated in a THA during their layover in accordance with the Category 4 requirements.
It’s not clear whether the incident has contributed to these latest precautions for France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, all of which have Omicron cases, however there are other VTL countries with cases that have not been included, so it’s a little confusing.
Those in transit through Changi with longer connections are still able to book a stay in a private room at two airport hotels, regardless of their original country of origin (and therefore including those coming from France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom).
The difference is that those with travel history in Category 4 countries or these new European additions will be escorted to and from the transit hotel, and will not be allowed to shop or dine en-route in either direction.
Those with travel history in Category 1, 2 or 3 countries meanwhile can proceed to and from the transit hotel freely.
The addition of these four countries onto the ‘naughty list’ as far as transits through Changi Airport are concerned is a little strange, but hopefully there’s not too much to read into this.
We can potentially expect more countries with confirmed Omicron cases to join the ‘no transit freedoms’ category in the coming days, if that is indeed what’s driving this change.
On the plus side, the (already stretched) new SilverKris lounge will be a bit quieter at peak times!
What are your theories about these new transit freedom exclusions through Changi Airport? Let us know in the comments section below.
(Cover Photo: Changi Airport)