Travellers from New Zealand can now transit through Singapore's Changi Airport to a growing number of international destinations but there are tight restrictions.
Transit through Singapore is one-way (through Changi and beyond rather than back to this country and travellers will be confined to special zones at the airport. Connections must be no longer than 48 hours.
Since March Changi had been largely shut to all passengers, including transits, apart from repatriation flights organised by governments.
The chance to transit through Changi will appeal to some the tens of thousands of foreign nationals in this country on holiday or working here but unable to get home on repatriation flights.
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Passengers can only travel on SIA Group (Singapore Airlines, SilkAir and Scoot) flights and cannot connect to other carriers once in Singapore.
The airline this week started operating Airbus A350-900s from Singapore to Auckland twice a week and to Christchurch once a week in preparation for the gradual opening up of Changi, one of the world's busiest airports.
The flights mark the first scheduled passenger services between the cities since New Zealand and Singapore closed their borders in March due to Covid-19.
Flights from Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth will also be part of the transit scheme.
Singapore Airlines regional vice-president South West Pacific, Philip Goh, welcomed the opening of the channel, but said it was a small step in a long and gradual process before international travel can resume without restrictions.
"The decision to allow customers travelling from Australia and New Zealand to destinations in the current SIA Group network via transiting through Singapore's Changi Airport, is a small but welcome step in our journey towards recovery."
Government travel restrictions remained in force in Australia and New Zealand as well as in many other countries and opening of limited one-way transit is not a sign that international travel is back to normal.
"The one-way transit channel will allow those who wish to return home from Australia or New Zealand to do so, in a Covid-safe manner, both on board our aircraft and while in transit at Changi Airport.''
He warned that passengers who wanted to book a flight should ensure they review all of the transit and travel requirements, including whether they can legally depart Australia or New Zealand and whether they will be allowed entry at their country of arrival.
"We know that news of such transit channels will give people cause for excitement and hope. However, these feelings must be tempered at the current time with an understanding that we are still some time away from even considering being able to book an overseas holiday."
The airline is gradually opening up its international network after nearly all its planes were grounded.
To meet the requirements on the segregation of transit and non-transit passengers, flights may have limited or no seat selection available during the booking phase. Advance pre-paid seat selection has also been temporarily suspended for new bookings.
To adhere to regulatory requirements, some customers may have their seats reassigned closer to the departure date.
During transit through Singapore passengers will be issued with a wristband, which indicates their access to the designated transit holding area.
If the transit time is less than 75 minutes, customers will be ushered directly to their boarding gate.
Facilities in the transit holding area will include food kiosks, vending machines, restrooms, a smoking room, and a snooze corner. Complimentary WiFi is also available.
Premium passengers will have their own waiting area.
All transit hotels at Changi Airport are temporarily closed.
At Changi Airport, transit passengers will be ushered in groups from the transit holding area directly to the boarding gate. They will be invited to board the aircraft first, followed by non-transit passengers.
Every flight will have dedicated seating zones on board to keep the two groups of passengers apart.
Changi Airport this afternoon released further details, saying it had set up the transit holding areas (THA) in Terminals 1 and 3 Group.
Temperature taking will be conducted at the entrance and the THA will be put through deep cleaning and disinfection regularly.
Transit passengers will need to show travel documents for verification and contact
tracing. Those with a high temperature or who appear or feel unwell will be referred
for medical attention.
The airport says transit passengers must wear a face mask and adhere to the safe distancing markers. Airport staff working in the THAs must use a face mask, face shield and gloves.
Since the onset of Covid-19, Changi Airport has stepped up precautionary
measures across its terminals. This includes significantly increasing the number of
hand sanitisers and the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting across the airport.
Carpets are vacuumed daily by autonomous cleaning robots equipped with a
HEPA filter that catches fine particles including dust and pollen while vacuuming.
In addition, autonomous cleaning robots have been equipped with a misting
machine that disinfects the carpets after cleaning.