‘You can’t Zoom your holiday’: Singapore Airlines hopes ‘green lane’ could help restart US travel

Oct 21, 2020

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The world’s longest nonstop route will return next month when Singapore Airlines Flight SQ24 lands at New York JFK on the morning of Nov. 9.

The Star Alliance carrier expects that first flight to be less than full, carrying a mix of holidaygoers and cargo to the U.S. East Coast, Singapore Airlines regional vice president for the Americas Joey Seow told TPG in an interview.The flight will complement service between Singapore (SIN) and Los Angeles (LAX) that have continued flying during the coronavirus pandemic.

For now, tourists on the flight will likely have Singaporean residency, because of travel restrictions currently in place by Singapore’s government. But Singapore Airlines hopes that its Los Angeles and New York flights will be carrying more than just holidaygoers and cargo soon with the prospect of a possible COVID “green lane” between Singapore and the U.S. on the horizon.

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“I don’t think it will be before long that we will do something with the [U.S.] administration,” Seow said about the possibility of a green lane. “We hope that one can be implemented shortly.”

The idea of a green lane, or travel bubble, would require all travelers to provide proof of a negative COVID test from a set period before they fly. In return, they could land and move around without quarantines or other restrictions in their destination.

Singapore recently announced a similar travel bubble with Hong Kong. The country is also allowing in visitors from Australia, Brunei, New Zealand and Vietnam.

Any discussions of a travel bubble are between Singaporean and U.S. authorities and not with the airline, Seow said.

Related: Singapore Airlines to restart world’s longest flight in November

With U.S. COVID infection numbers rising, a bubble with pre-flight testing could reopen travel with Singapore. This would be good news for Singapore Airlines — which prior to the pandemic offered up to eight daily flights to six U.S. airports — and United Airlines who fly between the countries.

“I feel there is a little bit of pent up travel demand on the leisure front. You can’t Zoom your holiday,” said Seow. He added that while Americans cannot enter Singapore currently, they can transit at Changi Airport to places like the Maldives.

In the meantime, Singapore is preparing for more leisure flyers on its U.S. flights for the foreseeable future. The decision to fly its standard Airbus A350-900, rather than the premium-configured long-range ULR variant, is seen as a better seating mix for “those who are a bit more budget conscious,” said Seow.

And the restarted flight could play a key role in pushing back the pandemic. With a high concentration of pharmaceutical manufacturing in the New York area, Singapore could play a key role in helping distribute the eventual COVID vaccine between Asia and the U.S.

Related: A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

Featured image by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

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