Airlines today welcomed news of a two-way travel bubble between Singapore and Australia as the first flights under Australia’s new quarantine regime landed at major airports.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed overnight that Australia would accept fully-vaccinated visitors from Singapore without quarantine later this month.
Australia intends to allow quarantine-free entry for fully-vaccinated Singaporean tourists, workers and students from November 21.
Singapore had already announced that Australians could visit the island state using its quarantine-free Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTL).
Morrison’s announcement was welcomed by Singapore Airlines and the International Air Transport Association, which said it was yet another step towards a “new normal”.
“Australia’s opening for quarantine free travel to Singapore citizens, regardless of purpose of travel, sends a loud and clear message that Australia is pressing ahead with her plans to reopen her borders,’’ IATA regional vice president for Asia-Pacific Philip Goh said.
“We are excited by this positive development and we look forward to further easing of border restrictions by Australia and other countries in the region. It will provide the needed boost for the recovery of the aviation industry and air travel sector.”
A Singapore Airlines (SIA) flight was the first to land in Sydney carrying fully vaccinated Australian citizens, residents and their families no longer facing border restrictions or the need to quarantine.
An SIA spokesman said he expected about 300 arrivals today between the airline’s flights to Sydney and Melbourne and some 2500 on 31 flights to the two cities this week.
Singapore flight SQ237 was also the first uncapped international flight into Melbourne under the new regime while SQ212 was the first to depart Sydney.
“It has been wonderful to see families reunited and loved ones embracing at the airport, a sign of hope for all,” said Singapore Airlines regional vice president Louis Arul.
“The reopening of Australia’s borders for fully vaccinated Australian citizens, permanent residents and eligible non-citizens is a welcome first step on Australia’s road to recovery and re-establishing connections with the world,” Arul said.
“Next week we look forward to starting the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) between Australia and Singapore, which will allow Australians to enter Singapore without the need to quarantine.”
Arul said the announcement Singapore citizens would enjoy quarantine free travel between Singapore and Australia was timely for people wanting to reunite with loved ones.
“It will also support Australia’s economic recovery with the return of international students from Singapore as well as other important economic visa holders,” he said.
SIA’s Sydney arrival was followed by the first regularly scheduled Qantas International long-haul flight for almost 600 days — QF 12 from Los Angeles.
The Flying Kangaroo’s Sydney-Darwin-London flight will be its first regular service out of Sydney at 6;30pm.
While the national carrier has flown hundreds of Australian government repatriation flights during the pandemic, and operated under a temporary border bubble arrangement with New Zealand earlier this year, the airline said these were the first regular Qantas international passenger flights under the relaxed overseas travel restrictions.
All passengers on Qantas International flights are required to be fully vaccinated, unless they are under 12 years old, are 12- to 17-year-olds traveling to Australia with their family or guardian or have an exemption.
“This day has been a long time coming for our people and our customers,’’ said Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce.”It’s wonderful to see Australians able to reunite with loved ones after such a long time apart.
“It’s been a very challenging time for our international crew, with many of them stood down since March 2020. We are in the process of standing up our Australian-based team members who are excited to get back to doing what they love.”
Joyce noted that international travel would be “a little different for a while “ due to new requirements and guidelines in place.
Qantas will operate international flights between Sydney and London and Los Angeles from today, with flights to other destinations relaunching in coming weeks.