Singapore-Hong Kong airfares soar a day after travel bubble announced

The coronavirus pandemic has hit Cathay Pacific Airways and Singapore Airlines especially hard.
The coronavirus pandemic has hit Cathay Pacific Airways and Singapore Airlines especially hard.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - The cost of air tickets between Singapore and Hong Kong soared on Friday (Oct 16) just a day after plans for a travel bubble between the two countries was announced.

The cheapest price on the Singapore Airlines website for a return economy ticket was $558 on Friday evening for flights up to the end of December, up from around $400 on Thursday.

Travellers to either destination will not have to quarantine as long as they test negative for Covid-19.

But it will take more than the resumption of flights for the travel bubble to get off the ground safely, said industry insiders, noting that Singapore and Hong Kong authorities have yet to reveal full details of the agreement, including how and when Covid-19 tests will be carried out.

"It's definitely a good sign... but we need more clarity about how (travel) is going to be carried out in a safe manner before we can understand the potential business impact on travel agents," said National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (Natas) president Steven Ler.

Travellers will be concerned about their health throughout the journey, especially families with children, while how tests will be administered is also an important question that has to be answered, Mr Ler added.

"So we will have to wait and see. A lot of people are rushing to grab a flight spot first but we are also seeing plenty of questions from those who come to us (travel agencies) about how to arrange for their travel," he said.

Ms Alicia Seah, Dynasty Travel's director of public relations and communications, noted that collaboration with the airlines, tourism boards and local operators such as theme parks will also be critical in kick-starting the recovery of leisure travel.

"We are still awaiting the launch date to be confirmed, (but) we are now working on competitive (packages) of airfares, accommodation and theme attractions," she added.

Singapore Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Thursday that the travel bubble could start in a matter of "weeks". Anyone who has stayed 14 days in either territory, regardless of age and nationality, will be eligible to travel.

Teacher Anderson Neo, 27, has not seen his Hong Kong-based girlfriend since the end of January but he intends holding off buying tickets until a start date for the bubble is confirmed and more information is available on Covid-19 tests.

"It's been pretty tough since we just got together last year, and this is the longest we have been separated for. So it was a relief (to hear about the bubble) as we weren't sure if we could see each other physically before 2021," he said.

"But regardless of the prices, I think a major concern would be if the travel bubble works. Seeing the current rush of people booking tickets, we are a little sceptical if the bubble can remain Covid-free, especially if there are people with a slight illness who go ahead and book a flight anyway just so they can travel."