Flying in Corona Times: Scoot TR980 – Singapore to Hong Kong (6 September 2020) by Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Flying Out Of Singapore During The COVID-19 Pandemic

The ongoing pandemic has changed our lives in many different ways, one of which is our curtailed inability to travel. Travel, and movement, is something most endemic to people from all times, and from the days of the Nativity narrative in the Gospel, to early explorers who went in search of new places, and the modern-day budget airline flyer, global events have hardly curtailed the desire for travel. Yet circumstances have made it much more difficult to do so, as this post will demonstrate.

Having needed to make a one-way trip to Hong Kong for work, I found myself with the ‘privilege’ to go where most had not been allowed; yet this privilege came with a plethora of caveats. First of which of course, is the violation of Singapore’s no-travel advisory, unfortunate, because many people travel for valid reasons.

There are now about 10 flights a week to Hong Kong on Scoot, Cathay, and Singapore Airlines, a mere fraction of the pre-COVID capacity. Fares have been more or less fixed for all of the days and were not overly expensive despite the very small numbers of people onboard. I chose to fly Scoot as it fit my schedule, the fare was reasonable, and the timing allowed me to wait for my test results in a hotel (more later).

Please note that the information in this article was experienced on 6 September 2020. The information in this article including travel restrictions may have changed whenever you are reading this. Always check the latest Government(s) and airline travel advisories for your own flight and nationality if you are flying during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I arrived to an empty Terminal 1, with the main people walking around, groups of foreign helpers enjoying their off-day.

Proceeding to Row 7, the Scoot self-check in area.

Checking-In For Scoot During COVID-19

The first person I encountered was quick to ask: to Hong Kong? (it was the only Scoot flight departing for hours, and one of maybe a dozen flights from T1 for the whole day). Upon seeing my Singapore passport, he called upon his duty manager to check that I had the documents required to enter Hong Kong.

I proceeded to the check-in desk which was helpfully manned, and placed my baggage on the belt.

The ground staff printed out a boarding pass for me and tagged my bag. I asked if I could be seated elsewhere than the seat allocated to me at online check in but I was told that while the seat couldn’t be changed, I could ask to move once onboard, since there was a grand total of, wait for this, four people to be onboard this flight. For some reason, Scoot has changed their baggage policy for only a small 3kg bag to be carried onboard with a free 7kg check-in given with each ticket. I’m not sure why this was the case, as I was still allowed to place my bag in the overhead bins if I wanted to do so.

With some extra time, I picked up a quick lunch at Jewel before proceeding to the departure gate. The Eastern side gate has been closed, and only the Western one was open so a little more walking to do.

Lotte Takes Over Duty-Free Concessions at Changi Airport

I picked up duty-free alcohol at the newly opened Lotte concession replacing the former DFS one.

Disappointingly I still had to make my way to Gate D36, a long walk from immigration despite the fact that there were so few flights flying. I stood on long travellator rides where I passed gate after gate which had been turned into parking for non-flying aircraft.

Boarding A Scoot Flight During COVID-19

There were a ton of CERTIS staff to inspect my bags at the gate hold room, and one security staff happily shared that with so few passengers on board, I could “even play badminton” on board. What a fascinating idea.

9V-OJH “Fernweh” will be flying me one-way to Hong Kong.

Fernweh, German for a longing for far places: ironic as one can’t go anywhere these days.

My boarding pass was checked, and as a matter of fact there would only be three people flying today, someone had arrived a little before me, and as soon as I cleared checks the staff changed the status to ‘last call’ to wait for third person to arrive at the gate. There were only Three Guys on this flight, more socially distanced than the name of a famous burger chain.

It was service par excellence; instead of waiting for the “We now invite people with status, elderly and young children to board first”, the gate staff cheerfully told her colleague “there are so many passengers on the flight today” before proceeding to inform each of us, almost in a personalised way that the aircraft was ready for boarding.

Goodbye Singapore, till travel restrictions are eased for travellers coming in from Hong Kong again.

The staff, all dressed in PPE, welcomed me onboard and pointed me to my seat, as in a usual flight.

I was seated at 18K on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

Scoot’s Inflight Care Kit

On my seat was placed a declaration form, an arrival card and a care kit consisting of alcohol wipes, sanitiser and a disposable face mask.

All three passengers were seated in the same cabin.

After the usual announcements, the friendly pilot mentioned the strange times we were living in, and that he hoped to see us again when it was possible to travel a little more.

We took off a little early with no traffic at all to the runway at Changi.

Taking off from Changi – a rare experience in these Corona times.

After takeoff, all the window shades were dimmed by the cabin crew.

Scoot Café is Now Open (?)

About 45 minutes in, one of the staff came over to serve my meal which I had pre-ordered.

I saw a SATS truck putting food onto the plane earlier: they must have been sending the one meal that I had ordered as the other passengers didn’t seem to have ordered any.

The stewardess did her best to make a contactless delivery, opening the tray table of the seat next to mine, putting the food down, before promptly scurrying away without saying very much. I noticed one of the passengers was given a cup of water when he asked for one, but no other meals were served.

Hot meals have just returned to Scoot, and I was happy to have my Nasi Lemak with Chicken Rendang, served with a box of Made-in-Singapore chocolates and a bottle of water. There were about four choices for a hot meal, two instant noodle options and a ‘mystery snack pack’ option or meals, all of which had to be pre-ordered beforehand as there were no inflight sales of any kind onboard.

ALSO READ: If you are craving for your own inflight meal, you might also want to read about recreating your own Scoot inflight meal from NTUC Fairprice here.

A ‘Private Jet’ In COVID Times

After my finished meal had been cleared, the crew brightened up the cabin with some Boeing Sky Interiors – something that I have not seen in months.

I had a productive flight, comfortably completing some work after my meal.

I also visited my ‘private’ bathroom which was super-clean. There were more bathrooms than passengers, so despite not having discussed it before, all three of us guys stuck with one cubicle anyway.

The pilot came back on the PA system and announced descent into Hong Kong. It was a cloudy day and the flight arrived about 25 minutes ahead of schedule.

The three-hour 25 minute flight was fairly uneventful and smooth, taking the most direct route to Hong Kong with no need to circle, a perennial bugbear of the approach to HKG which can easily add thirty minutes to the travel time.

Instinctively as the plane arrived at Gate 33 (another feature of Corona Times: the Midfield Concourse is no longer in use for flights, but for COVID testing), all three passengers unbuckled seatbelts before the plane came to a complete stop and the seatbelt sign was off, but of course, there was nowhere to rush to. We disembarked and arrived at another empty terminal, unlike the HKG of the past, and proceeded for our compulsory corona-virus tests (see next post).

The flight was a relatively smooth one, and deceivingly ‘normal’. Yet we know that these times can hardly be considered normal, and we can look forward to the day when we can fly again as we used to. The inability to travel has perhaps only increased our desire to do so, and one hopes that people will travel more thoughtfully when it is possible once again.

Continue to the next article for quarantine procedures immediately upon arrival in Hong Kong including testing at the airport.

Please note that the information in this article was experienced on 6 September 2020. The information in this article including travel restrictions may have changed whenever you are reading this. Always check the latest Government(s) and airline travel advisories for your own flight and nationality if you are flying during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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