Singapore has announced an expansion of its quota for Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) passengers entering the country to the previously proposed 15,000 per day level, a tripling of the latest cap, while also adding three countries to the scheme and activating VTLs for three Middle East countries, whose membership to the ‘exclusive club’ had been indefinitely deferred at the end of last year.
Testing has also become S$100 cheaper per traveller, thanks to a relaxation to ART testing on arrival from 22nd February, with subsequent Day 2 to Day 7 tests happily ditched.
Good news as part of the relaxation is that airlines have finally been granted approval to operate designated VTL flights from airports in Thailand other than Bangkok Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang, which means the popular holiday island of Phuket finally gets some quarantine-free non-stop options to Singapore.
“CAAS will deepen the VTL for Thailand beyond Bangkok to include flights from all cities in Thailand.”Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS)
When Thailand’s VTL was first announced in late November last year there were designated flights loaded from Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket to Singapore.
Unfortunately, however, the non-Bangkok services were quickly pulled from the scheme, with airlines citing the ever-vague “regulatory requirements” excuse as the reason.
New Thailand VTL flights
With Singapore relaxing its VTL caps and CAAS giving the nod, there will now be quarantine-free flight options from Phuket, operated by Singapore Airlines and Scoot.
Singapore-based Jetstar Asia may also upgrade some of its Phuket – Singapore flights to VTL status, though that hasn’t been confirmed at the time of writing. Thai operators like AirAsia will also no doubt be keen to get in on the act.
There will also be designated VTL flights from Chiang Mai and Krabi to Singapore, operated solely by SIA’s budget arm Scoot at this stage.
This is great news for those travelling to Phuket and these other locations in Thailand, who currently have to take a domestic flight across to Bangkok at the end of their trip to connect with a VTL service to Singapore, arguably increasing their risk of COVID-19 exposure in the process!
VTL is only to Singapore
Remember you can take any flight from Singapore to Thailand and still benefit from the VTL process on the way home at the end of your trip.
For this arrangement, only your 7-day travel history and the VTL process to Singapore (including travel on a designated VTL flight) is relevant.
VTL: Phuket – Singapore
Here are the designated VTL flights operating from Phuket to Singapore (click to expand).
By October 2022, 42 weekly VTL flights are planned on this route, one of the highest of any city in the scheme.
Prior to COVID-19, two additional airlines operated flights between Singapore and Phuket – Jetstar Asia and Thai AirAsia. Neither airline has confirmed designated VTL flights on this route at the time of writing, but we expect further announcements soon.
Boeing 737 MAXs
As you may notice from the schedule above, Singapore Airlines is exclusively using its Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft on its Phuket flights, including the all-important VTL services back to Changi.
These aircraft are fitted with SIA’s latest narrow-body cabin products, which come close to the standards you’ll find on the wide-body fleet.
Here are our dedicated articles covering the new cabins, to help you know what to expect on board when flying to and from Phuket.
Singapore Airlines was briefly operating its Airbus A350s to and from Phuket over the peak holiday period in December 2021 and January 2022.
No sign of that yet even with this new VTL approval, but let’s hope the long-haul aircraft option also makes a comeback at some stage.
VTL: Chiang Mai – Singapore
Scoot’s VTL flights from Chiang Mai to Singapore will operate with the following schedule (click to expand).
VTL: Krabi – Singapore
Scoot’s VTL flights from Krabi to Singapore will operate with the following schedule (click to expand).
Prior to COVID-19, Thai AirAsia also operated flights between Singapore and Krabi. The airline has not confirmed any designated VTL flights on this route at the time of writing.
VTL: Bangkok – Singapore
If you’re happy returning from Bangkok to Singapore, there’s still a choice of five airlines and two airports for you, as shown below (click to expand):
Aside from being the obvious choice at the end of your trip if you’re visiting the Thai capital, these flights will also be a logical option if connecting from domestic flights elsewhere in Thailand, from a city that still doesn’t have a VTL option to Singapore.
VTL flight schedules are subject to occasional changes, so make sure you’ve bookmarked our continually updated list when planning your trip.
Thailand quarantine-free process
Thailand is still running its Test & Go scheme, alongside the Sandbox option, for fully vaccinated tourists from around the world.
For most of our readers it’s the more flexible Test & Go scheme that will be the best option to use when making a trip to Thailand, with a single arrival test and quarantine period for trips of up to four nights, and (unfortunately) a second test and quarantine period for five+ night jaunts.
Here’s our recent article summarising the process.
It will now be much easier to take a quarantine-free trip from Singapore to Phuket, cutting out the domestic connection over to Bangkok on the journey home to pick up a VTL flight back to Changi.
There are also welcome options for those heading back from Chiang Mai and Krabi, with Scoot offering non-stop VTL trips home.
We expect airlines like Jetstar and Thai AirAsia to be added to the list soon, opening up additional options which may allow even more flexibility and potential cost savings on quarantine-free Thailand trips.
(Cover Photo: Menglong Bao)