SINGAPORE: The suspension of Singapore Airlines (SIA) passenger flights to Hong Kong will not affect talks on a travel bubble between both cities, said Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung in Parliament on Apr 5 (Monday).
Hong Kong authorities announced last week that SIA flights departing from Singapore will not be allowed to land in Hong Kong from Apr 3 to 16, due to a COVID-19 case on flight SQ882 on Mar 31.
The 28-year-old woman was a transit passenger who had travelled from Indonesia.
In addition, three other transit passengers on the SIA flight had undergone COVID-19 pre-departure tests at clinics in their places of origin that did not meet Hong Kong’s requirements.
READ: Hong Kong government bars Singapore Airlines passenger flights from Apr 3 to 16; COVID-19 case detected
“In short, the recent suspension of SQ (Singapore Airlines) flights to Hong Kong does not affect the talks to establish or restore the air traffic bubble that didn’t get to start,” said Mr Ong.
“Any travel bubble will not carry transit passengers,” he added.
“Travel bubble operates on the basis that the flights travelling within the bubble carry only what we call ‘OD’ – origin-destination passengers. So actually transit passengers are out outside of the bubble, so it wouldn’t affect. And we continue to work with Hong Kong to restore this travel bubble.”
The Transport Minister was responding to a supplementary question from Member of Parliament Ang Wei Neng (PAP-West Coast), who asked whether Hong Kong’s decision to suspend SIA flights would impact plans for a travel bubble.
Mr Ong said that Hong Kong’s civil aviation authorities have set in place “very transparent criteria” for airlines.
He noted that a combination of “technical breaches” had resulted in SIA’s temporary suspension.
“Once you breach some of the criteria, you get suspended for 14 days so they have suspended (airlines for) 23 times before this latest incident where SQ got suspended for two weeks,” Mr Ong said.
“The Hong Kong aviation authorities enforce this very strictly, so it triggered the suspension,” he added.
READ: Hong Kong enforced COVID-19 regulation 23 times to stop airlines from landing in the city, including SIA flights
Singapore and Hong Kong were scheduled to launch an air travel bubble in November last year but it was deferred after Hong Kong saw a surge in COVID-19 cases.
On Nov 21, a day before flights were to begin, it was announced that the launch of the travel bubble had been deferred to early December.
It was later pushed back to 2021, with the exact starting date yet to be determined.
On Mar 29, Mr Ong said Singapore is studying a proposal from Hong Kong to reopen borders safely, a Hong Kong official said it has resumed discussions on a travel bubble with Singapore.