Retiree finally visiting her daughter Down Under after two years
Retiree among 200 passengers taking first flight to Melbourne under pilot quarantine-free travel scheme
For the first time in almost two years, Mrs Flora Chng, 68, was able to book an air ticket to Australia to visit her daughter, who is an Australian permanent resident.
Her earlier plans to travel to Australia were disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic as the country had been under lockdown and had opened its borders only to New Zealand.
Mrs Chng, a retired banker, was among nearly 200 passengers who took the first flight out of Singapore to Melbourne early yesterday morning under a pilot reopening scheme.
Under the travel pilot, Singapore citizens flying into Australia will not have to serve a 14-day quarantine in a hotel after arriving in New South Wales and Victoria states.
Non-Singapore citizens do not qualify for this scheme.
"If Australia had not opened up for quarantine-free travel, we would not have decided to go on this trip," said Mrs Chng, who flew there with her 27-year-old son.
The Straits Times understands that about 60 per cent of the 263 seats in the economy class cabin and about 95 per cent of the 40 seats in the business class cabin of Flight SQ237 were filled.
The plane, operated by Singapore Airlines (SIA), took off from Changi Airport at around 1.15am. The flight landed at Melbourne Airport at 11.08am local time (8.08am Singapore time).
Australia is limiting the number of arrivals in the initial stages of the pilot, which comes after Singapore started a vaccinated travel lane (VTL) scheme on Nov 8 to allow travellers arriving from Australia to skip quarantine.
At Changi Airport on Saturday night, long queues formed at SIA's check-in counters for the various flights taking off, including the one to Australia.
People sending off friends and relatives waited near the counters as Changi Airport staff reminded them to maintain a safe distance from one another.
The Straits Times completed the check-in process and cleared immigration in about 15 minutes.
All passengers have to present their vaccination certificate and a negative pre-departure Covid-19 test result, in addition to the usual immigration documents.
Singapore citizens entering Australia under the pilot also have to complete travel declarations, apply for the relevant visa and download contact tracing apps, among other measures.
Upon arrival in Australia, travellers will be required to take a Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) swab test within 24 hours. The test can be done for free at government testing facilities.
Another passenger on SQ237, Mr Tan Jun Xiang, 34, said he had wanted to get out of Singapore for a holiday for some time.
The tax manager decided on visiting Australia instead of South Korea as he has friends in Melbourne. The free PCR swab tests also mean spending less.
Mr Tan said: "The airport feels back to normal, the whole process was quite seamless and immigration clearance was very fast. But I was worried that I had not done all the necessary declarations or applied for the necessary permits."
There were also passengers transiting in Singapore on the way to Australia.
Engineer Kent Tran, 43, who is based in Japan, was looking forward to seeing his family again.
He had not been able to return home since the pandemic started due to strict caps on arrivals in Australia. These caps have been eased in recent weeks.
Mr Tran added: "I used to transit through Singapore five to 10 times a year, so compared with the last time, Changi Airport feels like a ghost town. It is sad to see such a great airport being decimated like this."
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