With the New Zealand trans-Tasman bubble mostly running smoothly since April 2021 – barring occasional COVID-19 breakouts and border closures – our government’s focus naturally turns to Singapore as the mooted second bubble destination for Australian residents.
Singapore mostly has the coronavirus pandemic under control, with a rolling average of under 30 new cases a day in June 2021. That’s not too bad from a population of approximately 6 million people in a cramped South-East Asian city-state that is more than 10,000 times smaller than Australia.
What needs to happen if a travel bubble opens?
In a recent visit to Singapore in early June 2021, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison officially declared Singapore as his top pick for quarantine-free travel. However, Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, reiterated that while Australia’s vaccination rates are ‘steady’, far more people will need to be vaccinated before a travel bubble is likely to go ahead. Other logistics that need to be sorted out include:
- Ensuring mutual recognition of health and vaccination certificates
- Deciding thresholds on vaccination and transmission rates to enable travel
- Discussing policies in case of future COVID breakouts and travel pauses
What could happen once the bubble opens?
Singapore Airlines and Qantas, as well as Jetstar to a lesser extent, would likely take full advantage of the travel bubble. We know from experience with New Zealand that airlines are notified before the public on the bubble opening date, so flights can be loaded for booking in advance.
In particular, Singapore Airlines would benefit from regular passenger flights to and from Australia, given that the airline doesn’t have a domestic network to fall back on and can only rely on limited international flights at present.
We can expect plenty of reward seats opening up – those with KrisFlyer miles would be able to finally use it for travel out of Australia! We can also imagine that Qantas will hold a few celebratory ‘Points Planes‘ for Qantas Frequent Flyer members. Perhaps Virgin Australia will re-open international reward seats on Singapore Airlines flights as well, but we wouldn’t hold our breath for the much-anticipated Velocity-KrisFlyer points transfer scheme to return.
On the lounges front, Qantas tends to open its premium First lounges before the bigger Business lounges, and we don’t see why this wouldn’t be the case in Singapore too. That means travellers can enjoy this beautiful space crafted by David Caon and his team, which was closed all-too-soon by the pandemic.
Singapore Airlines is still renovating its SilverKris and KrisFlyer lounges in Terminal 3 of Changi Airport. At this stage, only the SilverKris Business Class lounge is open, temporarily relocated to where the KrisFlyer Gold lounge previously was. This means Virgin Australia’s Gold and Platinum frequent flyers will enjoy better lounge service, for now.
(Confused? Singapore Airlines’ SilverKris lounges are the airline’s premier offering for Business and First Class passengers, as well as PPS Club members. The KrisFlyer Gold lounges are a step-down and cater for Economy and Premium Economy passengers with relevant Star Alliance, Velocity or partner Gold status and higher).
A Singapore bubble is a logical next step for Australia. It’s close enough to be good for an extended weekend away, but also far away enough that it will feel like a true international holiday compared to the short hop over to our friends at New Zealand.
It will be a boon for tourism and even international students, which do contribute greatly to parts of Australia’s economy. Likewise, many cooped-up travellers will likely be tempted to spread their wings and jet off to Singapore for a warm holiday.
From the points side, we’ll finally have some great flights to redeem KrisFlyer miles, Qantas Points and the points/miles of other partner airlines on. There’s no reason why Qantas and Singapore Airlines wouldn’t put on its best planes and inflight products for the Singapore-Australia travel bubble. Just don’t expect the Airbus A380s back anytime soon!
But we do have to remember that bubbles are not immune to outbreaks, and there is still a lot of work to do until the Singapore-Australia travel bubble becomes formally approved.