The cost of air tickets between two major Asian financial hubs is already starting to rise less than 24 hours after Singapore and Hong Kong unveiled plans for a travel bubble that wouldn’t require people to quarantine upon arrival.
The cheapest price for a return economy seat on Singapore Airlines to Hong Kong was S$558 ($410) on Friday morning up until the end of December, versus around S$400 on Thursday afternoon as the news was being announced, the airline’s website shows. Return business-class fares rose by around HK$5,000 ($645) to HK$19,000.
The coronavirus pandemic has hit the flag carriers of Singapore and Hong Kong especially hard because they don’t have any domestic market to fall back on. Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, around 1 million trips were made between the two regional centres every year, data from the Singapore and Hong Kong tourism boards show.
Hong Kong-listed Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. closed up 6.1 per cent on Thursday and rose as much as 6.4 per cent on Friday as investors digested the news. Singapore Airlines added 0.9 per cent.
Under the travel bubble, compulsory quarantine will be replaced by coronavirus testing. Singaporean transport minister Ong Ye Kung told reporters that he hopes the bubble will start in “weeks.” Other details of the agreement will be fleshed out later, the Hong Kong government said, without giving any date for when the plan will come into effect.
The lack of details hasn’t stopped people making plans. Tan Wei Lynn, who works in the financial sector in Hong Kong, booked her ticket to Singapore soon after the announcement. She plans to stay for several weeks and not fly back to Hong Kong until December, figuring by then they’ll have more of the details laid out.
“Having to quarantine is what’s stopped me, and a lot of people I know, from traveling,” Ms Tan said. “Yes, tests are expensive but it’s not about the cost of testing. We can’t afford to quarantine at one side or both sides.”