Singapore Airlines is now able to fly passengers from Australia and New Zealand through Singapore’s Changi Airport and onto the rest of its regional and international network – although the transit process will be a very different one to that which travellers remember, and for which the airport itself is famed.
Foremost among the restrictions: these transfers are, for now, only on a one- way basis from Australia and New Zealand. Transits are not allowed in the other direction, such as arriving into Changi on a Singapore Airlines flight from London and jumping onto a connecting flight to Sydney.
“It is important to remember that Government travel restrictions in Australia and New Zealand as well as in many other countries remain in place, and opening of limited one-way transit is not a sign that international travel is back to normal," cautions Philip Goh, Singapore Airlines Regional Vice-President for South West Pacific.
“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."
All the same, Goh welcomed the opening of even a one-way transit channel as "a small but welcome step in our journey towards recovery" and a time when international travel can resume without restrictions, although he adds "we are still some time away from even considering being able to book an overseas holiday."
Although these Changi transits are permitted from 11 June 2020, they're currently restricted to passengers making the whole of their journey on Singapore Airlines or its siblings SilkAir and Scoot. You can't fly with Singapore Airlines to Changi and then change onto a flight operated by an airline outside of the SIA family.
Here's the new shape of making a transit at Changi Airport.
Separating transit, non-transit passengers
On all flights, transit passengers will be separated from non-transit passengers. This includes the outbound flights from Australia and New Zealand, as well as the onwards flights from Changi to your final destination.
Passengers who are flying point-to-point – such as from Sydney to Singapore, or Singapore to London – will board and disembark separately to transit passengers. Each group will be seated in different sections of the airplane, use different washrooms and have their own assigned cabin crew.
As a result, Singapore Airlines advises that "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. Those who purchased prepaid seats and have been reassigned to a different seat will have their payment refunded."
Travellers will be able to view their assigned seats when checking in online but won't be able to select seats or make any changes 48 hours before their flight.
New transit lounges
On arrival at Changi all transit passengers will be welcomed by ground staff, issued with a wristband to identify them as in-transit and escorted to a special 'transit holding area'. There'll be no stopping to visit the duty-free shops or access to Singapore Airlines' own lounges.
The transit lounges have been set up with food kiosks, vending machines, restrooms, a smoking room and a snooze corner, plus free WiFi.
First class and business class transit passengers, along with high-flying PPS Club members (but not KrisFlyer Gold tiers) will have access to a 'premium waiting area' with complimentary food and drink.
The transit lounge for passengers flying out on Singapore Airlines is located near the start of the A gates zone at Changi Terminal 3. The SilkAir transit lounge is at the start of Terminal 1's C gates area, with a seperate Scoot transit lounge at the start of T1's D gates area.
Once you're in these transit lounges, that's where you will stay until your flight is called for boarding some 75 minutes before departure, and then be escorted to the departure gate (if on arrival at Changi your transit time is less than 75 minutes, you'll be taken straight to the relevant boarding gate).
Transit passengers will board the aircraft first, followed by non-transit passengers. When the flight reaches its destination, non-transit passengers will disembark first, followed by transit passengers.
Note that connections between flights must be no longer than 48 hours – but this won't be much of an issue, considering that visitors can't enter Singapore and that Changi's own in-airport transit hotels are closed.
Fast lanes now, green lanes later
Singapore Airlines this week increased flights to Australia and the rest of the world, while Singapore itself is now trialling a 'fast lane' for business travellers which removes the need to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine period upon arrival in the city-state.
This is seen as a potential precursor for carefully reopening international trade and travel, ahead of measures such as the proposed 'green lane' to countries such as Australia and New Zealand.