The Ministry of Home Affairs on Saturday issued the Standard Operating Protocol, or SOP, for international travel on non-scheduled commercial flights under the Vande Bharat Mission and air transport bubble arrangements, as per the report. India had banned international flight travel in March, in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The SOP said that people who want to travel to India on Vande Bharat Mission flights should register themselves with the Indian missions in the country where they are residing, along with other details required by the Ministry of External Affairs. However, people traveling to India on flights operating under air bubble arrangements need not register.

A senior official of a foreign airline of an air bubble country welcomed this move, saying: “As per the new rules, passengers on our flights don’t have to register on the Indian embassy portal. So relief for them and us who had to check (if that condition has been complied with).” India has so far created air bubbles with the USA, UK, France, Germany, UAE, Qatar, and Maldives.

“Category of persons eligible to travel will be permitted by the Home Ministry from time to time. Civil Aviation Ministry will display on its website the category of persons eligible to travel out of India,” it read.

Apply to the Civil aviation agency

The eligible persons would have to apply to the civil aviation agency or their designated agency along with their necessary details. “Travel shall be on non-scheduled commercial flights as allowed by the Civil Aviation Ministry. While onboard, precautions such as wearing masks, hand hygiene, etc. to be observed by staff crew and all passengers,” it added.

With regard to inbound flight, the category of persons eligible to travel would be permitted by the Union Home Ministry.

“Passengers of Vande Bharat Flights must register themselves with Indian Missions abroad. Air Transport Bubbles arrangements do not require such registration. They will travel by non-scheduled commercial flights/ships allowed by the government,” the guidelines stated.

Cost of travel

For inbound flights as well the cost of travel would be borne by the travelers. Only COVID-19 negative crew and staff will be allowed to operate flights and ships.

The SOP further stated that the External Affairs Ministry “to prepare a database of all Vande Bharat travelers” and share it with respective States and Union Territories in advance.

Air Transport Bubbles passengers

According to the SOP, the Airlines to “submit details of all Air Transport Bubbles passengers and share it with the concerned Indian Missions abroad with a copy to State/Union Territory government”.

“The External Affairs Ministry and Civil Aviation ministry to display online the schedule of the incoming flights/ships at least two days in advance. All travelers to give an undertaking that they are making the journey at their own risk,” the SOP stated.

“Passengers arriving through land borders to undergo the same protocol. Guidelines on protocols and quarantine as issued by the Health Ministry will be observed,” the guidelines stated further.

As many as 11,23,000 Indians stranded abroad have been repatriated by different modes under Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) till August 19, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Thursday.

Also, India is in talks with many more countries to create air bubbles like Australia, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Nigeria, Bahrain, Israel, Kenya, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Bhutan.