On September 8, 2021, Singapore opened its borders to fully vaccinated travellers from Germany, although there are various stringent requirements, detailed below.
The new initiative is called the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) and is a new travel corridor for vaccinated persons, which can be used by both business travellers and holidaymakers to visit Singapore without quarantine restrictions. Germany along with the Sultanate of Brunei were the first countries to be signed up to the VTL, though with the hope that other countries would be included if this pilot project were successful.
The VTL means that the previously mandatory quarantine of at least 14 days upon arrival in the city-state has been waived, and travellers can move freely in Singapore. This is in contrast to the Green Lane for business travellers, which was introduced in November 2020 and discontinued after a few weeks.
The first prerequisite for being able to enter Singapore quarantine-free under the new arrangement is the use of so-called VTL flights. Open only to vaccinated persons, they operated until October 30 by Singapore Airlines (SIA) three times a week from Frankfurt (always on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays) and twice a week from Munich (always on Mondays and Wednesdays). According to SIA, these times will not change during the winter. On Thursdays and Saturdays Lufthansa offers VTL flights from Frankfurt. Travellers from Singapore to Germany are not bound to VTL flights and therefore can currently enter without quarantine if vaccinated, tested or recovered (known as 3G, because in German it is geimpft, getestet, genesen). Booking for these flights is as normal, but the SIA website informs you of the steps you have to take before flying.
I arrived at 1800 for my 2200 departure on SQ325. People were already standing at SIA’s check-in counters in Hall C of Terminal 1 at Frankfurt Airport. Many documents need checking, since Singapore’s bureaucratic requirements are high. All passengers must be fully vaccinated, have been in Germany for a minimum of 21 days, present a negative PCR test result no older than 48 hours, and have a Vaccinated Travel Pass (VTP). To get this, travellers must fill in a form and answer all kind of health questions, and the VTP must be issued between seven and 30 days prior to their intended date of entry into Singapore. If accepted by the Singapore government, a traveller gets an official confirmation and a VTP. Also required is the SG Arrival Card and a booking confirmation for a further PCR test on arrival at Changi Airport (all to be applied for and paid for online in advance). The TraceTogether app on the smartphone for contact tracking in Singapore must also be shown at check-in.
This is not only time-consuming before travel but also at check-in – ten minutes per passenger at best, despite four manned counters and the professionalism of the SIA staff. The papers are not always complete, and some have to be corrected. This first VTL flight took off with 106 passengers and waiting times were comfortable, but since interest is high, the airline and passengers will have to prepare for peak loads.
Boarding started at 2125 and a temperature check of each passenger was conducted. At the aircraft door, the crew greeted us wearing medical masks and Plexiglass goggles. First class was fully booked, business class was 54 per cent occupied with 26 of 48 seats, another 15 passengers were in premium economy, 55 in economy. The total of 106 passengers is about double that of current non-VTL flights.
SIA’s VTL flights are currently operated with a Boeing 777-300ER in a four-class configuration (first, business, premium economy, economy).
I was seated in 23A, a window seat, at the rear of the business class cabin, which is arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration – each passenger has clear aisle access. At 28 inches wide, the seat is one of the leaders in the industry. There are two seating options – the Lazy Z, a cradling position that ensures your weight is centered and balanced when you’re sitting down, and the Sundeck, a lounging position. The seat also flips to become a fully-flat bed when you’re ready to sleep.
Shortly before 2200, the captain announced a flight time of 13 hours and 15 minutes – one hour longer than usual because Afghanistan will be flown around widely. As we taxied out of the parking position, the on-board service had already begun with drinks offered and food orders taken. A light supper and a hot meal were offered with several options. For the first time since the pandemic began, the crew is serving from the trolley again, at least one of two meals.
Because the airline is increasingly moving its content to digital, and not just because of Covid 19, there are no longer any printed menus; instead they are at inflightmenu.singaporeair.com or via the SingaporeAir app. It is hygienic, sustainable, and may even be efficient, but it takes some getting used to. The app can also be used to control the KrisWorld entertainment program, create a personal playlist and access it on board, though there is also the usual handheld control. A free e-library with 150 publications is also available, as is the option to shop online in the KrisShop – shopping on-board is not currently available. For those who want to send text messages, Business Class guests have a free wifi package of 100MB per flight, with top-ups starting at US$3.99.
After the supper (a goat cheese tart with fig cream starter, tomato mozzarella omelette main, and green tea tiramisu) I lay down to sleep – thanks to fully-flat bed and fine cotton bedding, I rested for a few hours and awoke with another 3.5 hours until landing.
Instead of continental breakfast (available on request), I ordered Indian lamb curry. The beverage list is complete again (after months of a reduced service). The popular satay service is also back – a sign of hope after months of pandemic-related abstinence.
At 1738 Singapore time, we landed a few minutes late at Singapore Changi Airport after a long but pleasant flight.
The airport was empty, with around two dozen employees standing in the terminal, dressed in blue protective suits. Passengers went immediately to the immigration desk, where a photo and our fingerprints were taken and a lot of paperwork had to be done. I activated the TraceTogether app and picked up my bags and went to the pre-booked PCR test. All in all, the whole airport experience took just under an hour. A bus was waiting outside the door to take passengers to the hotel where a quarantine of several hours awaited us. We were not allowed to leave the room until the test result was available. At 0200, it came.
The bureaucratic hurdles are enormous, but the VTL is a blessing for everyone travelling between Germany and Singapore. Visitors will be spared the agonising several-week hotel quarantine and will enjoy unimagined freedoms.
If this pilot project succeeds, Singapore will open up to more countries and, it is hoped, encourage many more to make transatlantic travel possible again. Finally!
BEST FOR Comfort of seat and bedding, excellent service
SEAT WIDTH 28 inches
SEAT RECLINE 180 degrees
BED LENGTH 78 inches
FLIGHT DURATION 13 hours 15 minutes
PRICE Internet rates for a return business class flight from Frankfurt to Singapore start at £1,990 (60 days advance purchase), £2,697 (no advance purchase); economy class tickets from £520. Prices subject to change