Qantas has announced changes to its long-haul network beginning in late March, delaying plans to route its London services via Singapore until at least mid-June due to the complexity of transit passenger testing requirements at Changi Airport.
Qantas had planned to restart its Singapore stopover on daily Boeing 787 flights between Sydney and London beginning on the 27th of March 2022, but would instead route these services via Darwin NT.
Unfortunately, Singapore’s transit passenger testing requirements make it difficult for Qantas to resume their London-bound flights through the city, as they did before COVID-19.
“Until June 2022, Qantas will continue to operate the Sydney-London flight through Darwin rather than Singapore to simplify passenger transit procedures.”
All travellers transiting through Changi Airport from Category 1 to 3 countries, including Australia and the United Kingdom, must have a negative pre-departure COVID-19 PCR or ART test within two days of their flight departure, according to current ICA standards.
However, since the 7th of January 2022, no pre-departure testing has been necessary for fully vaccinated tourists travelling from Australia to the UK.
Routing the daily Qantas London-bound QF1 flight through Singapore would thus impose the unnecessary burden of a pre-departure test for all passengers to transit at Changi.
This inconvenience would not only be unpopular with customers, but it would also place Qantas at a competitive disadvantage with airlines such as Qatar Airways and Emirates, which also offer test-free one-stop routes from Australia to London for vaccinated passengers.
Another testing problem awaits Qantas from the United Kingdom to Australia.
Australia’s pre-departure test requirement for fully vaccinated international visitors is one of two options:
- A PCR test performed within three days of departure: or
- A RAT (ART) test performed within 24 hours of departure
The issue for Qantas here is that those who choose a pre-departure PCR test three days before their flight departure from London to Australia, which complies with Australia’s entry requirements, would not be eligible to transit via Singapore because the test was taken too early to meet the ICA’s transit requirement (two days).
This would require Qantas to announce a stricter pre-departure test requirement to all passengers travelling on QF2 (London – Sydney) services, resulting in daily confusion and drama at the check-in desk.
Another obstacle for Qantas in resuming this Changi stopover is the absence of additional Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) capacity on Sydney-Singapore and London-Singapore aircraft.
There is currently a 50% reduction in the initially anticipated daily VTL arrivals cap into Singapore, which has been in place since the 21st of January, 2022, implying that just 7,500 people can come via the quarantine-free lane each day.
At this point, Qantas is unlikely to get VTL clearance for these additional flights, leaving it to carry passengers only between Australia and London or to run non-VTL flights into Singapore from Sydney and London, which would undoubtedly cause passenger confusion.
From the 19th of June 2022, Qantas shall continue to load its daily QF1/2 flight from Sydney to London via Changi Airport.