First VTL flights from Malaysia, India, Indonesia land in Singapore
The first quarantine-free flights for vaccinated travellers from Malaysia, India and Indonesia landed at Changi Airport yesterday, amid growing fears that a new Covid-19 variant could force international borders to shut again.
The vaccinated travel lanes (VTLs) for Finland and Sweden are also due to kick off as planned.
News of the Omicron variant, which is assessed by the World Health Organisation to have a "very high" global risk, has triggered Japan and Italy to announce plans to close their borders to foreigners.
Under the VTL, travellers vaccinated against Covid-19 can enter Singapore without having to serve quarantine.
A total of 29 designated VTL flights were scheduled to land at Changi Airport yesterday. Of these, 10 are flights from new VTL destinations. They comprise six flights from Malaysia, two flights from Indonesia, and two flights from India.
The first VTL flight from Kuala Lumpur, Jetstar Asia's 3K684, touched down at Changi Airport at 10.02am on Monday.
A Jetstar Asia spokesman said the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore route has always been a critical route, and the bilateral VTL agreement between both countries will help to restore one of the world's busiest international air links.
Meanwhile, the first VTL flight to Kuala Lumpur by Singapore Airlines (SIA), SQ108, landed at 9.24am. A spokesman said the flight touched down to a water cannon salute.
The return flight, SQ107, departed Kuala Lumpur at 10.25am and arrived in Singapore at 11.35am.
SIA will operate 10 weekly return VTL services between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
Four other carriers - Scoot, AirAsia, Malindo Air and Malaysia Airlines - will also operate VTL flights between both cities.
A director of a tech company, who wanted to be known only as Mr Goh, 40, was on board SQ108 to Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The Malaysian, who was visiting his family in Malaysia, was frustrated by the long waiting times in Kuala Lumpur. He waited for four hours to clear immigration and the Covid-19 swab test there.
There are now 18 countries from which vaccinated travellers can enter Singapore without quarantine.