COVID-19: The world is opening up – destinations, destinations, and more destinations!
Israel is welcoming travellers from March 2022. Singapore has dropped testing and is allowing transit passengers once again. LATAM will start flying between Sydney and Santiago, Chile again on March 29. Qantas will again service the Philipines from March 27 as the country opens itself to visitors again. Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia are also set to re-open with fewer restrictions in March. And I am in Fiji, now!
After close to 2 years of severe border restrictions, if not closures, parts of the world will be our oyster once again!
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Today (22 February 2022), we can fly and transit through Singapore again. No PCR or isolation is required as long as you are coming in as part of the vaccinated travel lane scheme, and take a supervised RAT test in the first 24 hours. No pre-departure test is required either, and you can enjoy all of the airport that is open, not just the rather restricted Transit Holding Area.
This will be a relief for Singapore Airlines and its Changi hub. Quotas exist for those in the transit scheme but these will be gradually raised over the coming weeks to include destinations such as Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and all cities in Thailand. You won’t even have to have stayed in a single VTL country for 14 days prior to travel. The period has now been cut to 7 days.
This is going to put Singapore way ahead of other regional hubs like Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo, which all have much heavier restrictions. Expect even more cities to be added to the eligible VTL list, expected to reach 47cities in 20 countries over the next few weeks.
You will need a PCR test on arrival at the airport, and up to 24 hours quarantine until a negative result. El Al had scheduled direct flights from Melbourne to Tel Aviv back in 2020, but those plans were thrown into disarray during the pandemic. Currently, there is no El Al service, but you can get to Tel Aviv in one stop using Etihad and possibly Emirates/FlyDubai if they reinstate their flight suspended due to the omicron outbreak.
Santiago in Chile has long been the gateway for Qantas and LATAM into South America. LATAM will return to our skies on flights between Sydneya and Santiago from 29 March, with an initial 3, soon to be 4 flights per week.
Thats LA801 out of Santiago on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and LA800 from Sydney on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday all on the B787 Dreamliner, with lie flat bed in business class. You do get a stopover in Auckalnd, so its not quite direct, and you will need to double check NZ transit arrangements, since borders will not fully reopen until October.
Qantas has not told us when it will resume its flights to South America, so LATAM will hold a monopoly – at least for a while. Just remember that LATAM is no longer a member of and airline alliance, since it left OneWorld after US Delta Airlines – a founding member of SkyTeam bought a 20% stake.
Things are a bit more fuzzy on the Malaysian peninsula, with at this stage only a recommendation for the nationals Recoery contcil for the government to reopen borders to vaccinated travellers from March. Closed since March 2020, the country is desperate to open its non-quarantining heart of overseas travellers, and and kick start its economy with tourism to Penang, Lankawi island, and of course the capital Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysian Airlines still flies to Australia (Sydney and Melbourne) on a much reduced schedule using A330’s, and on a monthly basis to Adelaide and Brisbane. As expected AirAsia X resumed its flights to Australia on 14 February and you can expect these to ramp up from once weekly (Monday’s KL to SYD and Tuesday’s the return flight).
Qantas resumes Sydney to Manila on 27 March as the Philippines reopens to tourists this week. The Australian carrier is planning a daily Airbus 330 Sydney/Manila route, while Philippine Airlines flies out of Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney on A321’s. Vaccinated Australians can travel quarantine and visa free again. Just note because of uneven vaccination coverage, some provinces and islands of the vast archipelago maintain tougher travel restrictions. Check before you travel.
15 March is the day to pencil in your diary for the lifting of most restrictions on travel into Vietnam. You will need the new normal of vaccination certificate, proof of negative test result pre-departure and medical insurance worth at least USA$10,000, as well as expecting to spend 24 hours in hotel quarantine until a negative PCR result, and health monitoring for 14 days.
Vietnam has been progressively opening its borders since January 2022 – first off to Asian neighbours, and slowly to a wider circle of countries. Vietname Airlines resumed twice weekly flights out of Sydne and Melbourne once repatriation flights for Vienames citizens and residents had proved successful. You can fly out of Sydney and Melbouren to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) on Vietname Airlines Dreamliners now, but will need to wait for the Hanoi route out of Sydney to resume.
Jetstar also runs 3 flights a week to Saigon out of Melbourne, and new kid on the block, Bamboo Airlines is set to service Melbourne from Saigon 2 maybe ramping up to 4 times a week starting in April.
The Vietnamee diaspora in Australia, numbering over 300,000 will certainly welcome the resumption of flights by all airlines.
That’s enough for now. I’ve already covered Thailands reopening, and we will have more potential destinations as world wide aviation catches up with border openings, and travellers feel more secure about travelling during this pandemic