Singapore-Malaysia air VTL: Workers eagerly await reunion, but trip cost some obstacle

Prakash may not need to wait too long. Singapore’s Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong last Saturday said he was “optimistic” about the possibility of opening the land border between Singapore and Malaysia by the end of November and that details were still being worked out.

Mr. Gan also said that it was “possible” for the ground VTL to be launched “on the same day” as the air VTL.

Malaysian Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said on Tuesday that a test drive for the VTL terrain had taken place at the Johor Causeway.

It is also good news for another Malaysian working in Singapore, Muhammad Yani Hussein. He told CNA he was excited when he first heard about aerial VTL, but was put off by the prices of plane tickets.

“Maybe I was too slow to buy the tickets, but now the prices to come back in December are too high. I’ll wait and see, maybe postpone my trip until next year when the prices drop, ”he said.

Muhammad Yani added that he is now awaiting news on land VTL protocols, so he can travel to Malaysia via land checkpoints before catching a bus to his hometown of Perak.

EXHAUST TESTS MUST BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT

In addition to the cost of airline tickets, travelers using the air VTL should also consider the costs of COVID-19 swab testing.

As part of the VTL, travelers are required to take a total of four COVID-19 swab tests on a round trip.

They are expected to produce a negative COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or rapid antigen test (ART) result within 48 hours of departure. It is also necessary to undergo a PCR test on arrival, for each stage of the journey.

A pre-departure ART test can cost anywhere from S $ 30 to S $ 50, while a PCR test costs S $ 100 to S $ 200.

Meanwhile, a PCR test on arrival at KLIA costs RM 150 (S $ 48.80) for Malaysians and RM 250 (S $ 81.33) for foreigners. The PCR tests on arrival at Singapore Changi Airport cost S $ 125.

In total, a solo traveler would be expected to shell out between around S $ 305 and S $ 600 for COVID-19 swab testing alone.

Wong, the Kuala Lumpur-based Singaporean said “he had no choice but to put money aside for it.”

“At least they allow us to take the RTK-ART (RTK-antigen rapid test) for the flight before departure (instead of the PCR), so that lowers the cost a bit,” he added.

Prakash, the bus driver who is awaiting updates on the land VTL, said he had set aside S $ 500 for swab testing. However, he hoped that authorities in both countries might consider subsidizing the costs more.

He said the cost of PCR testing on arrival in both countries is “very high”. “If the price is lower, a lot of workers can benefit,” he said.

Vasudevan, the nurse, said he and his wife had set aside S $ 1,000 for plane tickets and COVID-19 swab tests for their round trip to Negeri Sembilan

“The amount we have to shell out is always less than what we needed before the VTL program because we no longer have to pay for the quarantine,” he said.

“At the end of the day, all I care about is spending quality time with my family.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to correct the estimate of the overall costs involved that an individual traveler may incur for a round trip between Singapore and KL.