In a recently held press conference, Hardeep Singh Puri, MoS, I/C, Civil Aviation, informed that Government of India has formalized air bubble arrangements with 16 countries adding countries like Oman, Bhutan on the list along side earlier done agreements with countries like USA, Canada, France, Germany, among others. The Minister also added that Government is in discussion with Italy, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and others for similar arrangements.
Air Bubble agreement is a bilateral air corridor being established between various countries to ease travel restrictions amidst travel ban imposed by various countries due to coronavirus. Despite the ban, India was among the first few nations to start repatriation drive as early as May to bring back stranded Indians. Soon after, Air Bubbles were established to further ease the travel.
Till now, govt has facilitated the repatriation and international travel of over 20 lakh people through different means since 6th May 2020. Minister Puri said that under Vande Bharat Mission, 17,11,128 people have travelled back to India and 2,97,536 people have travelled out of India.
As the government is easing the lockdown further to open up the economy, more and more people are flying in and out of the country for all sorts of purposes, right from business travel to education travel and even for tourist activities. These steps to ease down the lockdown are listed in monthly SOP guidelines issued by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
Passengers who wish to avail international flights can refer to the quick guide below to familiarise with the countries under agreement and regulations:
Which countries can you fly to under Air Bubble Pact?
India had initially established travel bubbles with countries like the United States, Germany and France. Since then, India has formed agreements with 16 nations in total. Here's the list:
WHAT IS AN AIR BUBBLE?
An air bubble is a temporary arrangement between two countries to restart commercial flight services at a time when regular international flights are suspended due to COVID-19. Under the arrangement, airlines from both countries are allowed to operate, unlike Mission Vande Bharat where only Indian air carriers were allowed to operate flights.
How's Air Bubble Pact Different from Vande Bharat Mission?
Unlike Vande Bharat Mission, the Air Bubble Pact is a bilateral agreement between two countries to allow flyers travel freely without registering with the government. In Vande Bharat Mission, one has to register their name with the Indian Embassy in order to fly out of a specific country. Also, in Air Bubbles, flights from both the countries are allowed to fly increasing options and reducing prices. Mission Vande Bharat is undertaken only in countries from where no flight is allowed to fly.
IS TOURIST VISA APPLICABLE FOR FLIGHTS UNDER THE AIR CORRIDOR?
Yes, certain countries like Dubai, Bahrain, Afghanistan have allowed tourists to fly into country with certain restrictions. However, majority of flights are still bring out stranded Indian citizens, OCI card holders & diplomats. If the country has not allowed tourist visa, Indian nationals cannot fly to these countries. You need to have a valid visa to enter countries who are not allowing tourist activities.
Will more countries will be added to Air Bubble Agreement?
Hardeep Singh Puri, Civil Aviation Minister has announced that India was negotiating with several other countries to resume international flight operations. These countries include Italy, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Australia, Israel, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Ukraine and Thailand.
Are Their any restrictions for flying to Air bubble countries?
Yes, not all countries are allowing visas of all categories. It's only that under Air Bubble agreement, you don't have to do additional paperwork like registering online or with embassy to fly in and out of the country. The rest of the travelling remains the same as the pre-covid period, only that state border rules apply. In India, for example, people holding valid tourist visa are not allowed.
Who can travel from India to the USA?
1. US citizens, permanent residents, and foreign nationals holding valid US visas
2. Any Indian national holding any type of valid US visa. It would be for the airlines concerned to ensure that there is no travel restriction for Indian nationals to enter USA with the particular visa category before issue of ticket/ boarding pass to the Indian passenger
3. Seamen of foreign nationalities; Seamen holding Indian passports would be allowed subject to clearance from the Ministry of Shipping.
Who can travel from India to the UAE?
1. UAE nationals
2. ICA approved UAE residents destined for UAE only
3. Any Indian national holding any type of valid UAE visa and destined for UAE only. It would be for the airlines concerned to ensure that there is no travel restriction for Indian nationals to enter UAE with the particular visa category before issue of ticket/ boarding pass to the Indian passenger.