Singapore opens VTLs to more countries; SIA, Garuda sign MOU to expand partnership

Cambodia is proving to be a popular destination post-COVID. (PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said last week it will extend the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) programme to six more countries. The six countries include Cambodia, Fiji, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Turkey. This latest move will increase the total number of VTL countries from 21 to 27. Pre-COVID, these 27 countries contributed to about 60 percent of the total daily arrivals at Changi. This latest extension will further broaden Changi’s network and help reclaim and rebuild Singapore’s status as an international aviation hub with global connectivity, CAAS said. Travellers from Thailand may enter Singapore under the VTL from 14 December 2021. Travellers from Cambodia, Fiji, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Turkey may enter Singapore under the VTL from 16 December 2021.

Cambodia is relaxing its quarantine requirements for vaccinate travellers to help rebuild its tourism industry.(PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

Under the VTL, fully vaccinated travellers from VTL countries may enter Singapore without quarantine and just need to undergo COVID-19 testing. Children aged 12 years and below in the calendar year who are not vaccinated will be allowed to travel under the VTL into Singapore if they are accompanied by a VTL traveller who meets all VTL requirements. The VTL is for entry into Singapore. Travellers are advised to check the entry requirements imposed by the respective VTL countries, which may vary across countries and may change as the COVID-19 situation evolves. CAAS, as of Sunday 28 November, has not made any changes to the programme due to the Omicron variant that has been designated a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“The successful implementation of the VTL without compromising public health has given CAAS the confidence to extend the scheme to more countries,” CAAS said. “The countries announced today are in Category II of MOH’s Country/Region Classification for Border Measures; they have similar or lower COVID-19 incidence rates than Singapore and the other VTL countries. We are opening to them with safeguards, including proof of vaccination and testing. We will also manage the numbers through the VTL quota. With this latest extension, the VTL quota will be increased from 10,000 to 15,000 travellers daily.”

Singapore Airlines hopes the government’s new Vaccinated Travel Lanes will bring people back to flying. A lone student waits to say goodbye to a friend in a nearly deserted departure hall. (PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

Cambodia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Thailand – Pre-COVID, these were popular tourist destinations for Singaporeans. These countries have opened their borders to quarantine-free general travel for vaccinated travellers. Most recently, Thailand reopened its borders to vaccinated travellers from over 60 countries/ regions including Singapore from 1 November 2021. Similarly, Cambodia also reopened its borders to all vaccinated travellers from 15 November 2021.

On 24 November 2021, the European Commission announced its decision to recognise the Singapore HealthCerts as equivalent to the European Union (EU) Digital COVID Certificate (DCC), connecting Singapore to the EU DCC trust framework. Following this, CAAS will accept vaccination certificates issued in the EU DCC format by the EU Member States and by non-EU Member States that have joined the EU DCC system, as a valid proof of vaccination for travel under the VTL. This will apply to travellers entering Singapore on or after 7 December 2021. With this, a traveller departing from a VTL country may now present their vaccination certificate in the EU DCC format issued by any country in the EU DCC system, even if it is a non-VTL country, for travel under the VTL. Such travellers will still need to meet the other VTL conditions.

Singapore Airlines, Garuda sign MOU to expand partnership

A Garuda CRJ jet in Indonesia. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

Garuda Indonesia and Singapore Airlines (SIA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that allows the carriers to explore a wide-ranging commercial partnership that provides their customers with additional options and an enhanced travel experience. The agreement was signed by Garuda Indonesia President and Chief Executive Officer Irfan Setiaputra and SIA Chief Executive Officer Goh Choon Phong on 26 November 2021 and coincides with the upcoming launch of a quarantine-free Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) between Indonesia and Singapore on 29 November 2021.

The scope of the collaboration includes the potential alignment of frequent flyer programmes, joint marketing activities, and initiatives to promote inbound tourism into Indonesia, subject to regulatory approval. Both partners are also committed to finding new growth opportunities in the air freight segment, as well as cooperation in maintenance, repair, and overhaul activities.

Garuda Indonesia and SIA reactivated their air connectivity partnership arrangement between Singapore and Bali, Jakarta, and Surabaya on 1 October 2021. Garuda Indonesia commenced flights network connectivity on SIA’s services to London on the same day, and will codeshare on SIA’s flights to Mumbai from 1 January 2022, subject to regulatory approval. Additional airline connectivity partnerships to points in both airlines’ networks will be explored to support increased air connectivity to Indonesia and Singapore, as well as the wider Southeast Asia region.

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