Hong Kong and Singapore will launch a “travel bubble” on November 22, their governments said Wednesday, in a rare piece of good news for the pandemic-battered airline and tourism industries.
A quota of 200 residents from each city will be able to travel on one daily flight to the other, Hong Kong commerce minister Edward Yau told a press conference.
Only those who have been in Hong Kong or Singapore for two weeks and tested negative for the coronavirus will be allowed to board, he added.
The corridor offers a glimpse into how places with less severe outbreaks might be able to safely restart some travel.
Passengers arriving in Hong Kong will have to test negative again at the airport to avoid quarantine, while those arriving in Singapore will have to download a contact-tracing app.
Those hoping to get on a plane in Hong Kong will have to stump up about HK$1,500 (US$190) for a test at a government-approved laboratory or hospital.
In Singapore, a test will set you back about Sg$200 ($150).
The daily flights will be operated by Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific.
Shares in Cathay Pacific rose 1.4% in Hong Kong following the announcement and Singapore Airlines was flat, with both outperforming their respective markets.
If either city reports a daily average of more than five new cases from untraceable sources over a week, the travel bubble will be suspended for two weeks, Yau said.
He added that if no spike in cases was reported, the flight quota between the two regional aviation hubs would be increased to two per day from each city from December 7.
Singapore transport minister Ong Ye Kung said the arrangements would be “as close at it gets to pre-Covid travel.”
Singapore is a major market for Hong Kong’s tourism industry with more than 450,000 arrivals from the city-state recorded in 2019, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
The announcement last month of the travel bubble plan led to a spike of more than 50% in ticket fares, according to online travel firm Expedia.
“Fabulous, HK here I come for Christmas,” one Singapore Facebook user wrote.
But not everyone was preparing to pack their bags.
“Fly to Singapore so we can walk around wearing a mask the same as in Hong Kong … better wait a bit longer until things are normal,” another said on Cathay Pacific’s Facebook page.