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South Korea halts new VTL flight bookings until 20 January

You won't be able to enter South Korea from Singapore quarantine-free on the VTL from 29th December to 20th January, unless you already have a non-stop flight booking.

Last week Singapore announced that it was freezing new bookings on Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) flights from 23rd December 2021, for flights operating between that day and 20th January 2022, due to the global spread of the Omicron variant.

Travellers who already have bookings on these flights are fully protected and will be able to fly under the existing VTL arrangements, but anyone now making a new booking is currently restricted to non-VTL flights, or VTL services bound for Singapore operating on or after 21st January 2022.

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Malaysia soon followed suit, imposing the same booking restriction for those seeking VTL flights from Changi to Kuala Lumpur over the period.

Issued Vaccinated Travel Pass (VTP) applications and new VTP applications (3-60 days prior to entry) for those who require one are not affected by the restriction.

South Korea halts new VTL bookings

Apart from Malaysia, South Korea is the only other bilateral arrangement among Singapore’s 24 VTL countries, and while there is no specific list of designated flights to travel from Singapore to Seoul for the VTL, authorities allow you to do so when taking any non-stop SIN-ICN service for quarantine-free entry.

Yesterday South Korea announced that it would no longer allow those making new bookings on these non-stop SIN-ICN “pseudo-VTL” flights to utilise the quarantine-free programme for arrivals between 29th December 2021 and 20th January 2022.

“To mitigate the risk of omicron variant, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has announced that travellers who will purchase air tickets for entry into Korea from Singapore between 29 December 2021, 0000hrs and 20 January 2022, 2359hrs (Korean Standard Time) would not be eligible to make use of VTL arrangement and be exempted from quarantine.”

Embassy of the Republic of Korea to the Republic of Singapore

Importantly, the VTL itself has not been suspended.

Those who have already booked their flights from Singapore to Seoul up to and including 28th December 2021, for travel on any date, will still be able to use the VTL quarantine-free arrival process.

“Travellers who already hold valid tickets and meet all other conditions for travel via VTL will not be affected and may continue to enter Korea via VTL.”

Embassy of the Republic of Korea to the Republic of Singapore

This effectively matches the Singapore restriction on new VTL ticket sales, however flights from Changi to Seoul weren’t initially included (23-28 Dec) and could still previously be booked as a VTL option.

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For example, it means if you were planning a VTL trip from Singapore to South Korea on 15th January 2022 to return on a designated VTL flight on 22nd January 2022, this will no longer be possible if you haven’t booked already.

While you will still be able to travel to Seoul in that example, you will face 10 days quarantine upon arrival in South Korea, which it goes without saying is enough to put almost anyone off!

Seoul. (Photo: Yu Kato)

Those making new plans to travel to South Korea on the VTL will therefore have to schedule their outbound trip from Singapore to take place on or after 21st January 2021, not just the return portion.

Here’s how Singapore Airlines describes the new restriction.

The South Korean authorities have also announced that those with confirmed bookings purchased on or before 28 December 2021, 2300hrs SGT may enter South Korea quarantine free if they meet all the VTL requirements.

Following which, customers with new bookings for flights arriving into South Korea between 28 December 2021, 2301hrs (SGT) and 20 January 2022, 2300hrs (SGT), will have to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in South Korea. Customers who wish to make a new flight booking to South Korea during this period may only do so by contacting their local Singapore Airlines office.

Singapore Airlines


 


 

Singapore ⇄ Seoul “VTL” flights

Here’s a full list of Singapore – Seoul non-stop “pseudo-VTL” flights, and designated VTL flights from Seoul to Singapore, which you’ll need to have already secured to have a quarantine-free arrival in both directions during the 29th December 2021 to 20th January 2022 window.

Singapore Seoul Flights
(non-stop “pseudo-VTL”)

  Days
M T W T F S S
TR840
787-8
SIN
01:25
ICN
08:50
 bgcolor= SQ608
787-10
       
SIN
01:25
ICN
08:50
KE646
777-300ER
     
SIN
01:30
ICN
08:50
 bgcolor= SQ600
787-10
       
SIN
08:05
ICN
15:30
OZ752
A330-300
     
SIN
23:30
ICN
06:50*

Seoul Singapore Flights
(Designated VTL shown)

  Days
M T W T F S S
TR841
787-8
ICN
10:30
SIN

16:15
 bgcolor= SQ607
787-10
       
ICN
10:50
SIN

16:15
OZ751
A330-300
     
ICN
16:20
SIN

21:55
 bgcolor= SQ601
787-10
       
ICN
16:35
SIN

22:20
KE645
777-300ER
       
ICN
18:35
SIN

00:10*

* Next day

The VTL with some differences

Since the VTL between Singapore and South Korea is a bilateral agreement, rather than the unilateral ones established with most other countries (e.g. Germany), there are a few additional requirements to take note of if you’re interested in travelling, with an existing booking during this period, or on or after 21st January 2022.

Here’s how it works in the Singapore – South Korea direction:

VTL Process
Singapore South Korea

  • Must be fully vaccinated with a WHO vaccine and certificate issued in Singapore or South Korea
  • Must have stayed in Singapore or South Korea for 14 days
  • Unvaccinated children aged 6+ are not eligible
  • Apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation*
  • Purchase COVID-19 travel insurance (min. coverage of KRW30 million – approximately S$34,000)*
  • Book an on-arrival PCR test before departure
  • Take a pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test (up to 48 hours before departure)
  • Travel to Seoul on any non-stop flight
  • Install the Self-Check mobile app and enter your daily health status for 14 days from the day of arrival
  • Take an on-arrival COVID-19 PCR test
  • Leave the airport via private transportation or designated bus / train to your residence or accommodation
  • Self-isolate until the result is available
  • Take Day 3 and Day 5 self-swab ART tests, with the arrival day as Day 1*

For stays of 8 or more days:

  • Take another COVID-19 PCR test on either Day 6 or 7 of your trip, with the arrival day as Day 1*

* Not applicable for South Korean citizens or permanent residents

Note that depending on your trip duration, there are potentially three COVID-19 tests involved in the Singapore – South Korea direction.

Here’s the process from South Korea to Singapore:

VTL Process
South Korea Singapore

  • Must be fully vaccinated in Singapore or any VTL country
  • Must have stayed in South Korea, Singapore or any VTL country for 14 days
  • Apply for a VTP in advance*
  • Purchase COVID-19 travel insurance (min. coverage of S$30,000)**
  • Take a pre-departure COVID-19 PCR or ART test (up to 2 days before departure)
  • Travel to Singapore on designated ‘VTL flights’
  • Take an on-arrival COVID-19 PCR test
  • Self-isolate until the result is available (typically 4-6 hours)
  • Take Day 2, Day 4, Day 5 and Day 6 self-swab ART tests
  • Take Day 3 and Day 7 supervised ART tests at QTCs/CTCs

* Not applicable for Singapore Citizens or permanent residents
** Not applicable for Singapore Citizens, permanent residents or pass holders



 


 

Summary

If you have already booked a non-stop flight on the Singapore – Seoul route (and probably a VTL flight for your way back to Singapore), there’s nothing you need to do and you will still be eligible to travel quarantine-free as before.

This announcement only affects those who haven’t yet booked their tickets, but intended to travel during this period.

It’s therefore not likely to be a major issue with most of our readers having already made their January travel plans, not to mention the recent block on new VTL bookings from Seoul to Singapore between now and 20th January 2022.

If you were intending to head up to Seoul prior to the 21st January 2022 but have not yet booked your ticket, then return on a designated VTL service outside the restriction window, you’ll unfortunately have to shift your trip to a later date, assuming you’re not prepared to quarantine for 10 days!

(Cover Photo: Korea Tourism)

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