Singapore and India are not negotiating air travel bubble: CAAS

Travellers wait at departure hall before check-in at Changi International Airport in Singapore.
Travellers wait at departure hall before check-in at Changi International Airport in Singapore. (PHOTO: Roslan Rahman/AFP via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — While Singapore and India are hoping to eventually restore commercial flights between the two countries, Singapore says it is not negotiating an air travel bubble arrangement, contrary to an earlier report.

On Monday, Indian High Commissioner to Singapore P. Kumaran was asked by CNBC about “talk” of an air travel bubble between the two countries. In response, Kumaran said there is “a fair amount of interest on both sides” to enhance connectivity, noting that there were almost 500 weekly flights between Singapore and India before the COVID-19 pandemic.

He added, “So we are talking about a proposal to try and restore step by step the connectivity that we enjoyed earlier, and there is a draft under negotiation.”

However, in response to queries by Yahoo News Singapore, Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) air transport director Daniel Ng said, “Countries may have different understanding on what an air travel bubble is. Singapore is not discussing an air travel bubble arrangement with India as Singaporeans understand it to be.”

Ng noted that air travel between the Republic and India is currently restricted to special repatriation flights chartered by the Indian government. He added that both sides hope to gradually resume international scheduled commercial passenger flights between the two sides, with travellers subject to travel restrictions and border and health measures, such as COVID-19 testing and Stay-Home Notices.

“Discussions are ongoing,” said Ng.

Thus far, the Republic has successfully negotiated an air travel bubble only with Hong Kong. Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said in November that it is the first of its kind in the region, and possibly the world.

Under the arrangement, travellers between Singapore and the Chinese territory are subject to COVID-19 tests before departure, in lieu of quarantine or Stay-Home Notice. There are no restrictions on the purpose of travel, and there is no requirement for a controlled itinerary or sponsorship.

The air travel bubble was set to kick off on 22 November last year, but was postponed one day before, amid an increase in coronavirus cases in Hong Kong. Nine days later, it was further postponed to beyond December, as local unlinked COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong remain high.

There has been no update on resumption since.

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