International Flights: Amid the coronavirus pandemic, scheduled International Flights continue to remain suspended in India since March 23. However, the aviation regulator has permitted special repatriation flights, and India has also formed bilateral air bubbles with various countries under which airlines of both countries are allowed to operate international flights with certain restrictions.

Since countries across the world are lifting travel restrictions from India in a graded manner under air bubble arrangements, both Indian and foreign airlines are offering a number of options for people who want to travel to countries such as the UK, US, Japan, France, etc.

“Transport Bubbles” or “Air Travel Arrangements” are temporary arrangements between two countries aimed at restarting commercial passenger services when regular international flights are suspended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are reciprocal in nature, meaning airlines from both countries enjoy similar benefits.

Traveling into and out of India: Who is allowed?

The government has decided to restore with immediate effect all existing visas, except electronic, tourist, and medical categories, almost eight months after their suspension following the coronavirus outbreak. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) also announced giving permission to all Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) and Person of Indian Origin (PIO) cardholders and all other foreign nationals to visit India for any purpose, except on a tourist visa.

The government has now decided to make a graded relaxation in visa and travel restrictions for more categories of foreign nationals and Indian nationals who wish to enter or leave India. Under this graded relaxation, the government has decided to restore with immediate effect all existing visas, except electronic visa, tourist visa, and medical visa, the statement said.

If the validity of such visas has expired, fresh visas of appropriate categories can be obtained from the Indian mission or post concerned.

Foreign nationals intending to visit India for medical treatment can apply afresh for a medical visa, including for their medical attendants. Therefore, this decision will enable foreign nationals to come to India for various purposes such as business, conferences, employment, studies, research, medical purposes, etc.

India has so far established air bubbles with 18 countries

India has so far established air bubbles arrangements with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Oman, Canada, France, Germany, Iraq, Japan, Maldives, Nigeria, Qatar, the UAE, Kenya, Ukraine, Bhutan, the UK, and the US.

What is an air bubble?

An air bubble is a bilateral arrangement with a set of regulations and restrictions in which the carriers of the two countries can operate international flights. The air bubbles arrangement between the two countries helps airlines to operate international flights with certain restrictions.

Delhi airport starts COVID-19 testing for international departures

International passengers taking their flights from the Delhi airport can now get themselves tested for COVID-19 right before their departure, said Genestrings Diagnostic Center which operates the testing lab at the airport.

The COVID-19 testing facility, which started operating on September 12 at the Delhi airport, was available only for arrival passengers till date.

“The facility has now been extended to air travelers leaving India for other countries. Notably, international travel rules require passengers traveling from one country to another to produce COVID negative reports,” said a press release by Genestrings.

What do you need to do to travel abroad?

All international travelers will, however, have to strictly adhere to the guidelines of the Union Health Ministry regarding quarantine and other health/COVID-19 matters. Earlier, the Health Ministry issued a set of guidelines for international arrival as per which all travelers should submit a self-declaration form on the website of Delhi airport at least 72 hours before the scheduled travel. They should also give an undertaking on the portal that they will undergo mandatory quarantine for 14 days i.e. 7 days institutional quarantine at their own cost, followed by 7 days isolation at home with self-monitoring of health. For those traveling outside India, various countries have different isolation and testing norms.

International travel

Scheduled international flights have been suspended in India since March 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, special international passenger flights have been operating in India under the Vande Bharat Mission since May and under bilateral air bubble arrangements formed between India and other countries since July.