Singapore Suspends Vaccinated Travel Lane Bookings

Singapore Suspends Vaccinated Travel Lane Bookings

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Among countries that initially took a zero-tolerance approach towards coronavirus, Singapore has been leading the way when it comes to reopening. The country had launched a vaccinated travel lane (VTL) concept, whereby vaccinated travelers from select countries could visit Singapore when taking a dedicated flight, in conjunction with testing. The omicron variant is now putting this concept on hold, but in a rather unusual way.

Singapore’s VTL concept suspended

Per an announcement from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), as of 11:59PM Singapore time on Wednesday, December 22, 2021, ticket sales are being suspended for vaccinated travel lane (VTL) flights.

This applies for bookings through January 20, 2022, so for the time being this concept is being suspended for about four weeks. Furthermore, for VTL flights as of January 21, 2022, there will be a 50% cap on total ticket sales. Those who are already booked on VTL flights can still visit Singapore as originally planned, so this only impacts new bookings.

As it’s described, these measures are being put into place due to “the rapid spread of the omicron variant overseas,” and these are intended to be “proactive and preemptive steps to manage the inflow” of travelers and “mitigate the risk to the Singapore community.”

Bookings for Singapore VTL flights are suspended

This is an interesting approach for Singapore to take

I have a couple of thoughts based on this announcement. First of all, the whole concept of VTL flights is pretty unprecedented, whereby passengers have to take certain flights if they want to enter a country. I imagine this announcement isn’t great for the economics of these flights, as airlines can’t accept new bookings for flights over the next several weeks, and on top of that have to cap ticket sales at 50% for subsequent flights.

Is the government somehow subsidizing these flights, or how are they still commercially viable with this change? I suppose during these times the variable costs of operating flights are fairly low, given the fixed costs (the planes are leased anyway, the crews are on the payroll anyway, etc.). Cargo demand also continues to be strong, so I imagine that helps.

My other thought is along similar lines to what I expressed yesterday about Thailand halting its reopening. Singapore already has strict measures in place:

  • You need to be vaccinated, and you need to take a dedicated flight
  • Testing requirements for visitors were already ramped up in early December, to the point that you have to test daily; if you travel to Singapore for a week, you’d have to take eight tests
  • Does Singapore really think that omicron can be kept outside its borders, and/or that it’s not already in Singapore?

I just don’t see how travel restrictions like this work, unless you totally shut down your borders. And even when you totally shut down your borders, it only works until it doesn’t work.

Expect Singapore VTL flights to be pretty empty

Bottom line

Singapore is suspending bookings for vaccinated travel lane flights through January 20, and even after that flights will be capped at 50% of capacity. The country is worried about the spread of the omicron variant. And while I get that, the country is taking about all the precautions possible while not closing altogether, including requiring visitors to test daily.

I guess it’s at least progress that some countries are no longer fully shutting down borders when there’s a new variant, but rather are only suspending new bookings?

What do you make of Singapore suspending VTL flight bookings?

(Tip of the hat to SINJim)

Conversations (29)
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  1. Tim Dunn Diamond

    in US covid Breaking news: The US Supreme Court will take up federal vaccine mandates. Oral arguments shortly after the first of the year.
    Could have significant impact on the airline industry.

    1. Alex Guest

      Who knows, after their recent rulings maybe the Court will let ordinary citizens sue the unvaccinated when they expose everyone else to COVID?!

  2. Jan Guest

    Hehe, saw it coming.
    Omicron will not be the last variant. This means Asia/Oceania will never fully open. I've maintained this since late 2020.
    On the US side, Brandon is not gonna remove that 1-day Covid testing requirement anytime soon.

    1. Alex Guest

      No one named Brandon has any control over vaccine policies. Offensive language like this should be deleted from the comments.

  3. Jackson Guest

    I stopped believing in Covid and my life got so much better haha.

    1. Alex Guest

      Life didn’t get much better for the 800,000 US citizens who have died from COVID.

  4. Ryan Guest

    To me this says they don't trust their own processes and measures. Singapore has universal masking, daily testing, and 90% of the population fully vaccinated. This change means that they don't trust those things to be effective in preventing Covid.

    That undermines the confidence in those measures. Because if those aren't enough, what will be?

    And it may be sustainable for a place like Singapore to be locked out to the rest of the...

    To me this says they don't trust their own processes and measures. Singapore has universal masking, daily testing, and 90% of the population fully vaccinated. This change means that they don't trust those things to be effective in preventing Covid.

    That undermines the confidence in those measures. Because if those aren't enough, what will be?

    And it may be sustainable for a place like Singapore to be locked out to the rest of the world for a period of time. But few countries have that luxury.

  5. Bob Guest

    Travel restrictions at this point should not be viewed as public health responses. Or as measures to reduce spread of the virus.

    They are performative, political acts. Easy to impose to show your population that you "doing something." That's it. And that's why governments are doing them.

    Stop reacting to travel bans/restrictions as if they are public heath measures and start looking at them as political responses, then they make a whole lot more sense.

    1. lefty Guest

      That could be case in the US where a lot of people think covid is a hoax or government conspiracy but not in Asian countries. Public opinions are (mostly, like 90% vs 50% here) unified and very concerned about (or I would say extremely scared of) the spread or contracting the virus. It becomes a political issue when the government cannot contain the virus through various public health measures (or "acts" as you would call them).

    2. Adam Simmons Guest

      Once again, from 24/12, we in Spain are going to have to wear masks outdoors at (pretty much) all times - a classic example of "being seen to be doing something".

  6. Niko Guest

    I just recently took Finnair VTL Flight to and back from Singapore. Business class almost Full, and then around 3 passengers in economy to sin and maybe 30 to Finland. So those mostly fly due cargo. Also Changi airport was quiet.

  7. Just another traveler Guest

    Lucky you should do a review on Robert Kennedy's book on Fauci and its impact on travel. (yes the Kennedy of the famously democrat family). Provides another perspective of how deep a hole we are all in.

    1. Josh Guest

      Oh a book written by a known conspiracy theorist and anti vax activist? Please take your dumbness somewhere else

    2. panda Guest

      Kennedy’s wife doesn’t even believe his BS.

    3. tipsyinmadras Diamond

      Robert Kennedy is a joke. Fauci is widely respected, and rightly so. The right vilifies of him because he espouses public health policy which fundamentally requires a belief in scientific method and having empathy and consideration for others. Both of which fly in the face of their ignorance and selfishness..

  8. Alonzo Diamond

    Singapore said that 88% of it's population is fully vaccinated. So why not trust that the vaccine does it's job? Just more fearfulness and hysteria. You're already making people who use the VTL test every single day, that should be more than enough. Joke.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      Because being an authoritarian means flexing authority no matter how stupid it is.

      And what's the best way to make sure people get the message, draconian policies.

    2. Alex Guest

      We still don’t know a lot about Omicron and slowing the spread to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed is the goal. Taking steps like this for a few weeks makes sense.

      All the reports so far are that Omicron is more contagious than previous variants and previously less impacted populations like children are possible more at risk. As I am sure you are aware children under 5 cannot get vaccinated (and vaccines from 6-12 were only recently available).

  9. David Guest

    They didn’t say that each flight would be capped at 50 percent capacity. Only that the total quota would be halved. Could SQ (and other airlines) reduce capacity to match the new quota? Such as by downsizing aircraft or cutting frequencies? You bet.

    1. ConcordeBoy Guest

      They can't really downsize much of anything, seeing as the majority of their routes are run by 77W, A359, and 78X... nearly all of which are spoken for.

      Their tiny handful of 738s and 7M8s can't help them there, without mass route cancellations. Thus their only choice to reduce capacity is to kill frequencies (or entire routes altogether).

  10. Dennis Guest

    Any word on transit flights where one does not actually enter Singapore? I recall people were segregated and the VTL was in use for this if I'm not mistaken.

  11. Fathiss Guest

    “ Does Singapore really think that omicron can be kept outside its borders, and/or that it’s not already in Singapore?”

    I read comments like this a lot. You’re not a stupid person. Surely you must know it’s not about keeping it outside. They know it’s there or coming. It’s about slowing to a manageable flow so as not to overwhelm healthcare. It’s hard for me to believe so few get this after all this time.

    1. infotainment Member

      Exactly this -- restricting travel can slow the entry of the new variant enough to give them time to prepare for its inevitable entry and the wave that will follow.

      That said, such restrictions should be absolutely revisited on a regular basis to determine whether it makes sense to keep them.

    2. Florian Guest

      So if they are merely buying time, what exactly will they (be able to) do in order to prepare during that time? Push vaccination rate above 1oo% maybe?

    3. Paul Guest

      Buying time and waiting to see if the Omicron is indeed less virulant than the previous forms. There are results out already that suggest this but the general consensus (even by the publishers of those results) is that it is too early to tell. In South Africa cases are dropping again although no major measures were imposed. I guess the next country everyone is watching now is the UK as it is the country with the highest number of Omicron outside Africa.

  12. ConcordeBoy Guest

    Well, THAT all lasted a hot 10 minutes longer than I'd originally thought it would.

    But I guess these "zero tolerance" countries have to be seen doing SOMETHING? *shrug*

    1. Dennis Guest

      Yep, that's what most of this is about. Perhaps at the start it was to "keep people safe", but not anymore. These countries are now stuck with the concept. Anything less would be seen as outright murder of its citizens.

    2. Samo Guest

      There are two problems these countries have:
      1. To gain support for their policies, they overhyped the virus. Just compare it with Scandinavia for example - they do take virus seriously (maybe except Sweden) but most of population isn't living in fear that they will catch COVID, because they know it doesn't hurt most people. But in some other countries, even people whose chances to end up in a hospital are scared to their...

      There are two problems these countries have:
      1. To gain support for their policies, they overhyped the virus. Just compare it with Scandinavia for example - they do take virus seriously (maybe except Sweden) but most of population isn't living in fear that they will catch COVID, because they know it doesn't hurt most people. But in some other countries, even people whose chances to end up in a hospital are scared to their bones because government told them it's some kind of an extremely dangerous disease (I'm not downplaying COVID, it is a problem for the society and some precautions are needed - but it's still mostly harmless for majority of people).
      2. If they gave up their policy now, they would have to admit it that all those painful restrictions were eventually useless as the spread is going to occur one way or another. This would be a big problem politically.

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Fathiss Guest

“ Does Singapore really think that omicron can be kept outside its borders, and/or that it’s not already in Singapore?” I read comments like this a lot. You’re not a stupid person. Surely you must know it’s not about keeping it outside. They know it’s there or coming. It’s about slowing to a manageable flow so as not to overwhelm healthcare. It’s hard for me to believe so few get this after all this time.

8
Josh Guest

Oh a book written by a known conspiracy theorist and anti vax activist? Please take your dumbness somewhere else

4
Bob Guest

Travel restrictions at this point should not be viewed as public health responses. Or as measures to reduce spread of the virus. They are performative, political acts. Easy to impose to show your population that you "doing something." That's it. And that's why governments are doing them. Stop reacting to travel bans/restrictions as if they are public heath measures and start looking at them as political responses, then they make a whole lot more sense.

4
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