The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has announced that starting from 23rd December 2021 (midnight tonight), new ticket sales for designated Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) flights to Singapore operating over the next four weeks will be suspended, due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant overseas.
Most importantly, however, those who have existing bookings on these flights, or secure their bookings on them by midnight tonight, will be unaffected and can continue to travel to Singapore quarantine-free on these services during this period.
“With effect from 22 December 2021, 2359 hours (Singapore time), there will be no new ticket sales on designated VTL flights for entry into Singapore from all VTL countries until 20 January 2022, 2359 hours (Singapore time).”CAAS
There will be no suspension of ticket sales on designated VTL services arriving in Singapore from 21st January 2022 onwards, however the quota is being cut by 50%.
The suspension and quota cut will also apply to those using the VTL (Land) to travel from Malaysia to Singapore across the same dates.
Long term pass holders and short term visitors with a valid VTP booked on a VTL flight will continue to be eligible for entry as they are now, in addition (of course) to Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents. VTP applications will not be suspended.
Transit passengers are not affected by this directive, and will continue to be able to book all designated VTL flights to transit via Singapore during this period.
“Singapore’s border measures will help to buy the country time to study and understand the Omicron variant, and to strengthen its defences, including enhancing its healthcare capacity, and getting more people vaccinated and boosted”, the Ministry of Health told CNA.
You will still be able to book VTL flights arriving from 21st January
An important aspect to understand about this pause in VTL ticket sales is that it only applies for flights arriving at Changi over this specific four-week period from 23rd December 2021 to 20th January 2022.
You will still be able to book VTL flights arriving in Singapore on or after 21st January 2022, even during the suspension window from midnight tonight, so there’s no rush to lock in plans for later in the year at this stage.
“With effect from 2359hrs (SGT) on 22 December 2021, Singapore Airlines will stop accepting new bookings for all Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) flights into Singapore that are scheduled between 23 December 2021 and 20 January 2022 (both dates inclusive).”Singapore Airlines
CAAS is effectively “freezing” the inbound VTL passenger loads on VTL flights over the next four weeks only, to limit inbound quarantine-free arrivals to a known quantity while the Omicron variant of COVID-19 almost inevitably starts to spread in the local community.
Lock in designated VTL flights now
If you’ve got travel plans with arrival in Singapore on or before 20th January 2022, but have yet to lock in those all-important designated VTL flights for a quarantine-free arrival, you’ll need to do so by midnight tonight.
If you are waitlisted for an award on Singapore Airlines, it will probably have to clear by midnight tonight (23:59 on 22nd December 2021), so it will be important to have a backup plan in mind in case there’s no sign of that happening.
Our full list of eligible services should help you find an available option to book, with over 20 different airlines offering VTL flights on 40 routes.
On routes like Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, for example, only 10 out of the 42 designated flights per week are operated by Singapore Airlines, so don’t rush to book a (potentially expensive) SIA ticket before checking out the alternatives including Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia and Jetstar.
Many Europe – Singapore VTL routes also have designated flights offered by non-SIA airlines, like British Airways, Air France, KLM and Lufthansa.
VTL quota halved
For VTL ticket sales on flights arriving into Changi from 21st January 2022, CAAS will also take the additional safeguard of halving permitted ticket sales to 50% of the previously allocated quota.
“For entry into Singapore on designated VTL flights from 21 January 2022, CAAS will cap the total ticket sales at 50% of the allocated quota.”CAAS
This is disappointing and will no doubt result in both higher costs and more limited award availability for travellers trying to fly to (or return to) Singapore quarantine-free, but again it is a relatively understandable response to the global Omicron spread.
Let’s hope this restriction can be short lived and we can return to the pre-Omicron arrival caps sooner rather than later.
The VTL country list
Here’s how Singapore’s list of VTL countries currently looks, with 24 countries included.
Singapore Vaccinated Travel Lanes
|Already Running||🇦🇺 Australia
🇰🇷 South Korea
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka
There has been no adjustment to the VTL list, nor any additional measures imposed on those arriving from specific countries with high Omicron cases, like the UK.
In a Nutshell
- You can still book all VTL flights until midnight tonight (11.59pm on 22nd December 2021)
- Existing bookings for all VTL flights are still valid
- After that, no new bookings for VTL flights landing 23rd December 2021 – 20th January 2022
- You can still book all VTL flights landing from 21st January 2022 onwards at all times, but the arrival quota has been cut by 50%
- VTPs issued for pass holders and visitors are still valid
- VTP applications are not being suspended
- Transit passengers through Singapore (e.g. LHR-SIN-HKT) can still book all VTL flights at all times, including those between 23rd December 2021 – 20th January 2022.
It was probably a matter of time before we saw some tightening of the quarantine-free VTL programme, since the highly transmissible Omicron COVID-19 variant started to spread across the world.
Nonetheless this freezing of new ticket sales on designated VTL flights for a four-week period will be seen as the biggest setback for the quarantine-free scheme since it was first established in September 2021.
This puts the brakes on the programme, though importantly it is not being cancelled and those with existing bookings on VTL flights will not be affected.
For those still to make their designated VTL flight arrangements to return to Singapore between now and 20th January 2022, you’ll need to lock in a designated flight by midnight tonight, or resign yourself to a Category 2 (seven-day SHN at home) or post-21st January arrival.
(Cover Photo: Changi Airport)