Hong Kong & Singapore Resume Travel Bubble Discussions

There’s hope yet for the much-touted travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore. Travel within the bubble was set to begin last November. However, the bubble burst just days before it was to start. Now, three months later, both governments are in talks to breathe fresh life into the plan.

Travel bubbles talks between Hong Kong and Singapore have resumed. Photo: Getty Images

Government officials confirm talks are underway

A report in The South China Morning Post on the weekend revealed both the Singaporean and Hong Kong Governments were in talks to resume the travel bubble. Both the Hong Kong Tourism Commission and Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority confirmed discussions were underway. However, both declined to set a timeline for travel resuming between the two cities.

This time around, even more conditions are likely for any travel between Hong Kong and Singapore. Many people might associate the idea of a travel bubble with freedom of movement. But that was never the case with this proposed bubble. There were going to be strict daily passenger limits. Further, negative PCR test results were required before traveling. Then, shortly before the initial bubble burst, Singapore decided arrivals would need to self isolate upon arrival there pending further test results.

Now, any travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore will see even more safeguards and conditions. Possibilities include a more extensive testing regime in the arrival city and mandatory downloading of a tracing app. It’s a short-term future we all may have to resign ourselves to, but it hardly sounds like a barrel of fun.

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You can expect tough travel conditions if any travel bubble gets off the ground. Photo: Getty Images

Welcome news for Singapore Airlines & Cathay Pacific

But anything that encourages travel would be welcome news for Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific. Unlike airlines in many neighboring nations, the national carriers of both Singapore and Hong Kong have no domestic networks to fall back on while international travel remains stalled.

Both airlines have suffered greatly throughout the travel downturn. Singapore Airlines incurred a US$2.1 billion operating loss for calendar 2020. In the December quarter, passenger traffic on Singapore Airlines was down 98.4% compared to the 2019 December quarter.

Singapore Airlines spokesperson Karl Schubert told Simple Flying today;

“We welcome and support all initiatives to resume international travel in a safe and calibrated manner.

“Singapore Airlines will continue to be nimble and flexible in adding capacity to meet the demand for air travel.

At Cathay Pacific, passenger traffic in December was down 98.7% on the previous December. Cathay Pacific isn’t due to announce their calendar 2020 numbers until mid-March. However, the airline posted a US$1.27 billion loss for the first six months of 2020. The airline’s Chairman, Patrick Healy, said at the time;

“This is the biggest challenge to the aviation industry that Cathay Pacific has ever witnessed. We do not expect to see a meaningful recovery in our passenger business for some time to come.”

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Both Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines will welcome any uptick in business a travel bubble brings. Photo: Getty Images

Some small relief for Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific’s fortunes took a further hit recently.  A new 14-day hotel quarantine plus a seven-day medical surveillance requirement for Cathay Pacific’s Hong Kong-based pilots and cabin crew came into force this month. That’s estimated to cost the airline an additional US$4 million-plus per month.

“At this stage, our preliminary assessment is that the new measure may result in a reduction of current passenger capacity of around 60%, and a reduction of current cargo capacity of around 25%,” said Cathay Pacific’s Ronald Lam in January.

Simple Flying has approached Cathay Pacific to get their response to news the Hong Kong Government is resuming travel bubble talks. We haven’t heard back before publication. But it’s fair to say they along with Singapore Airlines will welcome any uptick in traffic with open arms.

What do you think the prospects for a travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore are? Is it a good idea or likely to go nowhere? Post a comment and let us know.