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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

India’s Covid-19 air bubbles: Who can travel, and to which countries?

India international flights: India has established travel bubbles with 13 countries, including USA, UK, France, Germany, Canada, the Maldives, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Nigeria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Japan.

Written by Abhishek De , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: October 17, 2020 8:18:50 am
A passenger wearing a protective suit arrives for a flight at La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City (AP)

Even though India has extended its embargo on international flights till September 30, “air bubbles” or “air bridges” have become the only medium through which commercial international travel has resumed since mid-July. Since then, India’s air bubble count has gone up to 13, with Japan being the latest country to make it to the list.

With some European countries witnessing a second wave of infections, air bubbles, which allow citizens to travel freely between specified nations under a reciprocal arrangement, seem to be the ‘new normal’ even as international air travel demand remains tepid. In fact, Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri has said India was negotiating with 13 other countries for air bubble arrangements.

What is an air bubble/travel bubble?

In order to mitigate a host of quarantine and Covid-10 testing rules in arrival destinations, governments are implementing “air bubble” agreements between countries. Air bubbles or travel corridors are systems established between two countries that perceive each other to be safe and allow carriers of both the countries to fly passengers either way without any restrictions.

Such an arrangement will also allow the members of the group to rekindle trade ties with each other, and kickstart sectors such as travel and tourism. The Baltic countries of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia were the first ones to create an air bubble, allowing free travel among themselves, while restricting outsiders.

It is different from repatriation flights, which are only one way and the passengers have to register themselves with the embassy to board such flights.

With which countries India has air bubble agreements?

In July, India had initially established travel bubbles with the United States, Germany and France. Since the, India has formed agreements with 10 other nations — United Kingdom, Canada, the Maldives, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Nigeria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Japan.

Hardeep Singh Puri has also announced that India was negotiating with 13 other countries to resume international flight operations. These countries include Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Israel, Kenya, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.

Passengers wait to board a humanitarian flight to Canada at the La Aurora international airport in Guatemala City (AP)

Who is allowed to travel to these countries?

Indian nationals holding a valid visa with validity of at least one month — other than visa for tourism purpose — are allowed to travel. Besides, the government has now allowed all OCI cardholders to arrive into India. The foreign airlines have also been permitted to carry passengers who want to transit through their countries subject to the destination country allowing travel into their borders. The Civil Aviation Ministry has released detailed guidelines on who can travel to these countries from India along with the criteria for travelling to India from these countries.

1. Afghanistan: India has established an air transport bubble with Afghanistan. Indian carriers and Ariana Afghan Airlines are now permitted to operate services between India and Afghanistan and carry the following categories of persons on such flights:

A. From India to Afghanistan

i. Afghanistan nationals/residents and foreign nationals holding valid Afghanistan visas, if required; and

ii. Any Indian national holding any type of valid visa from Afghanistan and destined for Afghanistan only. It would be for the airlines concerned to ensure that there is no travel restriction for Indian nationals to enter Afghanistan with the particular visa category before issue of ticket/ boarding pass to the Indian passenger.

B. From Afghanistan to India

i. Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan;

ii. All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding Afghanistan passports; and

iii. Foreigners (including diplomats) holding valid visa issued by an Indian Mission in any category covered under Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines dated 30.06.2020 as amended from time to time.

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2. Bahrain: India has created an air travel arrangement with Bahrain. Air India/Air India Express and Gulf Air are now permitted to operate services between India and Bahrain and carry the following categories of persons on such flights:

A. From India to Bahrain

i. Bahraini nationals/residents;

ii. Any Indian national holding any type of valid visa from the Kingdom of Bahrain and destined for Bahrain only. It would be for the airlines concerned to ensure that there is no travel restriction for Indian nationals to enter Bahrain with the particular visa category before issue of ticket/ boarding pass to the Indian passenger.

B. From Bahrain to India

i. Indian nationals stranded in Bahrain;

ii. All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding Bahraini passports; and

iii. Bahraini nationals (including diplomats) holding valid visa issued by an Indian Mission in any category covered under Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines dated 30.06.2020 as amended from time to time.

3. Canada: India has created an air travel arrangement with Canada. Indian carriers and Air Canada are now permitted to operate services between India and Canada and carry the following categories of persons on such flights:

A. From India to Canada

i. Stranded Canadian nationals/residents and foreigners with valid Canadian visa eligible to enter Canada;

ii. Indian nationals with valid visas eligible to enter Canada. It would be for the airlines concerned to ensure that there is no travel restriction for Indian nationals to enter Canada before issue of ticket/ boarding pass to the Indian passenger; and

iii. Seamen of foreign nationalities; Seamen holding Indian passports would be allowed subject to clearance from the Ministry of Shipping

B. From Canada to India

i. Stranded Indian nationals;

ii. All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding Canadian passports; and

iii. Foreigners (including diplomats), who are eligible to enter India as per Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines dated 30.06.2020 as amended from time to time.

Passengers from Middle East Airline wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus wait to be screened for COVID-19 virus (AP)

4. France: India has created an air bubble arrangement with France. Indian and French carriers are now permitted to operate services between India and France and carry the following categories of persons on such flights:

A. From India to France

i. Indian nationals who are permitted to travel abroad as per MHA guidelines dated 01.07.2020 and destined for EU;

ii. Stranded EU nationals/residents, foreign nationals destined for Europe and transiting through France or spouses of these persons, whether accompanying or otherwise; and

iii. Seamen of foreign nationalities; Seamen holding Indian passports would be allowed subject to clearance from the Ministry of Shipping.

B. From France to India

i. Stranded Indian nationals;

ii. Foreigners (including diplomats and OCI card holders), who are eligible to enter India as per Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines dated 30.06.2020 as amended from time to time.

READThis is how airlines are keeping their aircraft coronavirus safe

5. Germany: India has created an air bubble arrangement with Germany. Indian and German carriers are now permitted to operate services between India and Germany and carry the following categories of persons on such flights:

A. From India to Germany

i. Indian nationals who are permitted to travel abroad as per MHA guidelines dated 01.07.2020 and destined for EU;

ii. Stranded EU nationals/residents, foreign nationals destined for Europe and transiting through Germany or spouses of these persons, whether accompanying or otherwise; and

iii. Seamen of foreign nationalities; Seamen holding Indian passports would be allowed subject to clearance from the Ministry of Shipping.

B. From Germany to India

i. Stranded Indian nationals;

ii. Foreigners (including diplomats and OCI card holders), who are eligible to enter India as per Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines dated 30.06.2020 as amended from time to time.

6. Iraq: India has created an air bubble arrangement with Iraq. Indian and Iraqi carriers are now permitted to operate services between India and Iraq and carry the following categories of persons on such flights:

A. From India to Iraq

i. Nationals/residents of Iraq;

ii. Any Indian national holding any type of valid visa from Iraq and destined for Iraq only. It would be for the airlines concerned to ensure that there is no travel restriction for Indian nationals to enter Iraq with the particular visa category before issue of ticket/ boarding pass to the Indian passenger.

B. From Iraq to India

i. Indian nationals stranded in Iraq;

ii. All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding passports of Iraq; and

iii. Nationals of Iraq (including diplomats), holding valid visa issued by an Indian Mission in any category covered under Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines dated 30.06.2020 as amended from time to time.

Passengers wearing PPEs arrive at Dum Dum Airport in Kolkata

7. Japan: India has created an air bubble with Japan. Indian and Japanese carriers are now permitted to operate services between India and Japan and carry the following categories of persons on such flights:

A. From India to Japan

i. Stranded nationals/residents of Japan and foreign nationals holding valid Japanese visas subject to the border measures and travel restrictions imposed by the government of Japan at the time of travel; and

ii. Any Indian national holding any type of valid visa from Japan subject to the border measures and travel restrictions imposed by the government of Japan at the time of travel. It would be for the airlines concerned to ensure that there is no travel restriction for Indian nationals to enter Japan with the particular visa category before issue of ticket/ boarding pass to the Indian passenger.

B. From Japan to India

i. Stranded Indian nationals;

ii. All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding passports of Japan; and

iii. Foreigners (including diplomats), holding valid visa issued by an Indian Mission in any category covered under Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines dated 30.06.2020 as amended from time to time.

8. Maldives: India has created an air bubble arrangement with Maldives. Indian and Maldivian carriers are now permitted to operate flights between India and Maldives and carry the following categories of persons on such flights:

A. From India to Maldives:

i. Maldivian nationals/residents and foreign nationals holding valid Maldivian visas, if required;

ii. Any Indian national. It would be for the airlines concerned to ensure that there is no travel restriction for Indian nationals to enter Maldives before issue of ticket/ boarding pass to the Indian passenger.

B. From Maldives to India:

i. Indian nationals;

ii. All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding Maldivian passports, and

iii. Foreigners (including diplomats) holding valid visa issued by an Indian Mission in any category covered under Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines dated 30.06.2020 as amended from time to time.

9. Nigeria: India has created an air bubble arrangement with Nigeria. Indian and Nigerian carriers are now permitted to operate flights between India and Nigeria and carry the following categories of persons on such flights:

A. From India to Nigeria:

i. Stranded Nigerian nationals/residents, foreign nationals destined for Africa and transiting through Nigeria or spouses of these persons, whether accompanying or otherwise;

ii. Any Indian national holding any type of valid Nigerian visa and destined for any country in Africa. It would be for the airlines concerned to ensure that there is no travel restriction for Indian nationals to enter the destination country before issue of ticket/ boarding pass to the Indian passenger; and

iii. Seamen of foreign nationalities; Seamen holding Indian passports would be allowed subject to clearance from the Ministry of Shipping.

B. From Nigeria to India:

i. Indian nationals stranded in any country in Africa;

ii. All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding Nigerian passports;

iii. Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding passports issued by any country in Africa who are eligible to enter India as per MHA guidelines dated 30.06.2020 as amended from time to time; and

iv. Foreigners (including diplomats) holding valid visa issued by an Indian Mission in any category covered under Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines dated 30.06.2020 as amended from time to time.

10. Qatar: India has created an air bubble arrangement with the State of Qatar. This bubble is valid till 31.10.2020. Indian carriers and Qatar Airways are now permitted to operate flights between India and Qatar and carry the following categories of persons on such flights:

A. From India to Qatar:

i. Qatari nationals;

ii. Any Indian national holding any type of valid Qatar visa and destined for Qatar only. It would be for the airlines concerned to ensure that there is no travel restriction for Indian nationals to enter Qatar with the particular visa category before issue of ticket/ boarding pass to the Indian passenger.

B. From Qatar to India:

i. Indian nationals stranded in Qatar;

ii. All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding Qatari passports, and

iii. Qatari nationals (including diplomats) holding valid visa issued by an Indian Mission in any category covered under Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines dated 30.06.2020 as amended from time to time.

11. United Arab Emirates (UAE): India has created an air bubble arrangement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This bubble is valid till 31.10.2020. Indian and UAE carriers are now permitted to operate flights between India and UAE and carry the following categories of persons on such flights:

A. From India to UAE:

i. UAE nationals.

ii. ICA approved UAE residents destined for UAE only.

iii. 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.

B. From UAE to India:

i. Stranded Indian nationals;

ii. All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding UAE passports; and

iii. UAE nationals (including diplomats) holding valid visa issued by an Indian Mission in any category covered under Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines dated 30.06.2020 as amended from time to time.

12. United Kingdom (UK): India has created an air travel arrangement with the United Kingdom. Indian and UK carriers are now permitted to operate services between India and UK and carry the following categories of persons on such flights:

A. From India to UK

i. Stranded UK nationals/residents, foreign nationals transiting through UK or spouses of these persons, whether accompanying or otherwise;

ii. Any Indian national holding any type of valid UK visa and destined for UK only. It would be for the airlines concerned to ensure that there is no travel restriction for Indian nationals to enter UK with the particular visa category before issue of ticket/ boarding pass to the Indian passenger; and

iii. Seamen of foreign nationalities; Seamen holding Indian passports would be allowed subject to clearance from the Ministry of Shipping

B. From UK to India

i. Stranded Indian nationals;

ii. All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding UK passports; and

iii. Foreigners (including diplomats), who are eligible to enter India as per Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines dated 30.06.2020 as amended from time to time.

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13. United States of America (USA): India has created an air travel arrangement with the United States of America. Indian and US carriers are now permitted to operate services between India and USA and carry the following categories of persons on such flights:

A. From India to USA

i. US citizens, legal permanent residents, and foreign nationals holding valid US visas;

ii. 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; and

iii. Seamen of foreign nationalities; Seamen holding Indian passports would be allowed subject to clearance from the Ministry of Shipping

B. From USA to India

i. Stranded Indian nationals;

ii. All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding US passports; and

iii. Foreigners (including diplomats), who are eligible to enter India as per Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines dated 30.06.2020 as amended from time to time.

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