SINGAPORE: A "special arrangement" has been made between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and Singapore Airlines (SIA) to fly Singaporeans and Singapore permanent residents (PRs) home amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
In a Facebook post on Thursday (Mar 19), the Singapore High Commission in London said it has struck an "exclusive ticket arrangement" with SIA to bring Singaporeans and PRs back to Singapore from Mar 19 to Mar 31, subject to availability.
"SIA is supporting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in its efforts to bring Singaporeans back home during these challenging times," said a SIA spokesperson in a response to CNA queries.
On Tuesday, the ministry urged Singapore students overseas to consider returning home soon.
READ: MFA urges Singaporean students overseas to consider returning home soon amid evolving COVID-19 situation
PRIORITY FOR STUDENTS
In a flight reservation form, MFA said that the arrangement is exclusively for Singaporean citizens and PRs, with priority for students.
"We are offering this facilitation to students first as the rest of the Singaporean community based here are more rooted and have other support," the MFA form read.
"Entries/ expressions of interest by non-Singaporeans will be treated as void."
Those who currently do not have tickets are instructed to fill up the form with their personal details, including their preferred flight dates.
"Singapore Airlines will do all (that is) possible to book a seat for you on the first available flight within your preferences, or if that is not possible, on the earliest available flight after your preferred date of travel," the form said.
SIA has worked out "a special rate for travel due to the extraordinary circumstances" and will contact passengers to process the tickets.
READ: Singaporeans advised to defer all travel abroad amid heightened risk of imported COVID-19 cases
Those who already hold tickets for flights that depart from Thursday until the end of March are requested to hold on to their tickets and travel as per the original itinerary.
Those who are holding tickets for travel from April are instructed to fill in the form, including their preferred flight dates, with SIA doing "all possible" to place them on the first available flight within their preferences.
If it cannot do so, it will try to place them on the earliest available flight after the preferred date of travel.
Depending on the price and original conditions of the ticket, additional payment maybe required, but this will be "moderated and waived where possible".
"Singapore Airlines will do all possible to contact you at least 24 hours before your allocated flight, and will reach out with more lead time wherever possible," said the form.
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Those who need to return home urgently can be on standby at London Heathrow airport for flights home, the Singapore High Commission said in its Facebook post.
SIA cannot guarantee that those who do so will be accepted, but there "is a chance" that the airline will have some seats available, the Facebook post read.
"In such a scenario, you should preferably not have already put in a request through this system as we would like to avoid duplication and clogging up the system," said the Singapore High Commission.
"Your safety is of utmost importance and rest assured that the Singapore High Commission in London is looking into getting additional flights if there is high unmet demand, including for further arrangements in April," it added.
Those who return to Singapore can also seek accommodation at hotels that the Singapore Global Network has secured preferential rates with, said the Singapore High Commission in London in a separate Facebook post.
On Tuesday, MFA encouraged Singaporean students studying overseas to consider returning home soon amid the global COVID-19 outbreak and said that the Government would liaise with airlines to facilitate flights to key cities when necessary.