SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): A pilot travel scheme to allow travellers vaccinated against Covid-19 to enter Singapore without quarantine will take off as planned on Wednesday (Sept 8).
The first flight under the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL), SQ325, is expected to depart Frankfurt in Germany at 10pm local time on Tuesday (4am on Wednesday, Singapore time), and land at Changi Airport at 4.25pm on Wednesday.
Vaccinated travellers from these two countries will go through up to four Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction tests in lieu of quarantine, and have to adhere to other conditions such as taking designated VTL flights to Singapore.
Singapore unilaterally opened the VTL to travellers from Brunei and Germany as a start.
Brunei remains closed to leisure travel, but as Germany has been open to travellers from the Republic since October last year, it means Singapore residents can use the VTL scheme to travel without quarantine in either country.
Singapore Airlines (SIA), which will operate three VTL flights weekly from Frankfurt and two VTL flights weekly from Munich, told The Straits Times (ST) that it has seen an increase in bookings. It declined to give further details, which it said were commercially sensitive.
An economy-class roundtrip ticket to Frankfurt on SIA starts at around $950, though prices can double or even triple depending on the day of travel.
Both business- and economy-class tickets for the first VTL flight from Frankfurt to Singapore were still available when ST checked the SIA website on Tuesday afternoon.
German carrier Lufthansa will also offer two VTL flights weekly from Frankfurt to Singapore, starting from Sept 16.
Travel booking platform Expedia said it has seen almost a tenfold increase in Singapore residents looking for flights to Munich and Frankfurt, following the announcement of the VTL on Aug 19.
But prices for the flights have remained stable, said Lavinia Rajaram, head of communications for Expedia in Asia-Pacific. She said they could rise if demand grows towards the year-end holidays.
In anticipation of growing demand for overseas travel, some travel agents have started working on tour packages to Germany.
Travel agent Chan Brothers Travel said it has launched an 11-day tour for travel under the VTL scheme, with precautions such as a reduced tour group size of 20 travellers.
Expedia's Rajaram said, however, that demand for travel to Singapore from Germany has not picked up.
"This is an indication that German travellers may not be prepared for long-haul travel, after just concluding their summer travels," she said.
According to the Singapore Tourism Board, there were 381,000 visitor arrivals from Germany in 2019 - the 15th-largest source of arrivals.
Independent aviation analyst Brendan Sobie from Sobie Aviation said he did not expect the VTL to generate a significant volume of inbound traffic. This is because of factors such as more attractive tourism options for German residents and Brunei's borders being largely closed.
Noting that there will be just 10 VTL flights weekly from Germany and Brunei, Sobie said: "It's not going to move the needle in terms of traffic.
"It's a step in the right direction, but not significant and not sufficient enough to start a recovery of the Singapore aviation and travel sectors."