With the Corona Virus Disease outbreak, the economic and social life came to a dead end. And no doubt, the year 2020 will be a remarkable year due to the biggest Pandemic in the history of this universe.
The Pandemic affected the sectors, including health, aviation, retail, travel, oil, capital markets, and numerous others. And talking about tourism losses is severe because the picture changes as quickly as the virus is spreading.
Around the end of March, the Indian Government imposed travel restrictions for the first time in 2020. And then, the process kept going.
The tourism stalled completely until July 2020, but then, the helpless people stuck in the other countries breathed some relief. On July 16, 2020, Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s Civil Aviation Minister, announced that India is going to enter into bilateral agreements with the US and France for International Air Bubbles.
And after that, the International Air Travel Bubble agreement went on with multiple other countries as well. Along with the Air Bubble, the Indian Government also introduced the Vande Bharat Mission.
People are curious to know about these initiatives taken by the Government. Moreover, many people are not sure about booking flights and other regulations under the respective enterprise. We have attempted to create a complete guide on the Air Bubble and Vande Bharat Mission.
Below, you will find all the rules, flight booking procedures, and some of the general FAQs related to them.
What is Air Bubble?
An Air Bubble is a certain kind of mutual agreement between two countries to assure a seamless tour, working on a couple of restrictions and regulations.
This initiative has a significant contribution to kick start the stalled travel and tourism sector.
A country only approves those flights that are mutually decided by both the countries in the agreement. To get further information about these flights, you can also visit a specific airline’s website/app.
You have the convenience of picking from all those airlines that fall under the Air Bubble category. You can travel to any country as well; the only condition is that the country must fall under the Air Bubble list.
Till now, India has formed this mutual agreement with the following 23 countries:
Hardeep Singh Puri also said that India is trying to form this bilateral agreement with other countries, including Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, and Singapore.
What is Vande Bharat Mission?
Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) is the most excellent repatriation excursion initiated by any Government in the entire universe. Indian Government started the Vande Bharat Mission in May 2002 and made sure that every helpless Indian must reach their home from multiple abroad destinations.
VBM Flights are quite different as compared to Air Bubble Flights. They do not hold a recurring schedule; they are ad-hoc flights and are usually regulated by Air India Express or Air India. Apart from these, VBM flights are allotted to some other Indian carriers as well.
Currently, India is going through the 7th phase of the VBM that is effective from November 1, 2020, to March 28, 2021. A total of 122 flights have been allotted to the VBM under its 7th phase, depending on its schedule.
Note that any flight under Vande Bharat Mission is not meant for domestic travel.
To get further information about VBM flights, you can visit the particular airline’s website.
Who can travel to India on VBM and Air Bubble Flights?
- To fly on these flights, you have to be at least one of these- Indian passport holders/citizens, foreign citizens with eligible Indian visas, or Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders.
- Air Bubble flights are impartially open for both Indian citizens and foreign passport holders with acceptable Indian visas. These do not need any approval to travel.
On the other hand, VBM flights are mainly for stranded OCIs and Indian passport holders. Moreover, you also need to take approval from the applicable IHC (Indian High Commission) before flying.
Here is the approval process for any VBM flight:
- Firstly, you have to book the flight.
- Then you have to email an application to the IHC that will include the relevant booking details. You can contact your VBM airline or the nearest IHC for more information.
- And finally, you have to wait for their approval.
- For Air Bubble Flights, no such approval from the IHC is required. All you need to do is to book and travel. However, you might have to fill some forms preceding your flight.
- Non-OCI foreign passport holders flying to a country should check the current and modified restrictions and requirements for that specific country.
Who can travel to the countries under the Air Bubble, and what are the criteria?
Here is a thorough guideline released by the Civil Aviation Ministry. These guidelines state who can travel from India to the other countries and vice-versa and all the Air Bubble mission criteria.
Carriers Permitted: Indian and Afghan carriers
Category of persons allowed:
From India to Afghanistan
- People of foreign nationality having a valid Afghanistan visa, and Afghanistan residents/nationals are allowed.
- Any Indian national with any valid visa to and from Afghanistan is permitted. The airline has to make sure that such people do not face any issues while entering Afghanistan before the subject of the boarding pass.
From Afghanistan to India
- Stranded Indian Nationals that are stuck in Afghanistan are permitted.
- Any OCI cardholder having an Afghanistan passport is also allowed for the same.
Carriers Permitted: Gulf Air and Air India/Air India Express.
Category of persons allowed:
From India to Bahrain
- Residents/nationals of Bahrain have the allowance.
- Indian nationals owning a valid visa from/for the Kingdom of Bahrain are also allowed. The airlines have to ensure that travelers do not face any difficulties while entering Bahrain. And this needs to be made sure before issuing the ticket or boarding pass.
From Bahrain to India
- Indian nationals stranded in Bahrain are authorized.
- Any OCI cardholder having a valid Bahraini passport is also permitted.
- The nationals of Bahrain are allowed only when they have a valid visa issued under MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) guidelines by an Indian Mission.
Click here for the guidelines of MHA, as of 30-06-2020.
Carriers Permitted: Air Canada and Indian carriers.
Category of persons allowed:
From India to Canada
- Foreigners and Stranded residents/nationals of Canada holding a valid Canadian visa are approved.
- Indian nationals having a valid Canadian visa with eligibility to enter Canada are also authorized to travel. The airline would be the responsible body for a safe and convenient passenger tour without any restrictions.
- Seamen having foreign nationalities are allowed. And the ones having Indian passports must take clearance from the Ministry of Shipping.
From Canada to India
- Stranded Indian residents/nationals are permitted.
- All OCI cardholders having a Canadian passport are also approved for traveling.
- Authorized foreigners must have eligibility to enter India. This eligibility will be decided by the guidelines of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
Carriers Permitted: Ethiopian and Indian carriers
Category of persons allowed:
From India to Ethiopia
- Stranded Ethiopian residents/nationals and foreign nationals transiting through Ethiopia and intended for Africa have the permission to travel.
- Any Indian/Nepalese/Bhutanese national intended for any country in Africa, having a valid visa for the respective country is allowed. The airline would be responsible for the convenient and hassle-free travelers’ journey to the respective Ethiopian Government.
- Seamen, intended to African countries, having Indian passports or foreign nationalities are allowed after the Ministry of Shipping’s clearance.
From Ethiopia to India
- Stranded Indian/Nepalese/Bhutanese nationals stuck in any African country are authorized for the journey.
- Any PIO (Person of Indian Origin) and OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) cardholder having a valid passport is allowed.
- Seamen from African countries are allowed.
- Any foreign national (from an African country) who intends to visit India (excluding Tourist Visas) is also permitted.
- Passengers originating from African countries must be destined for India only.
Carriers Permitted: Japanese and Indian carriers
Category of persons allowed:
From India to Japan
- All Stranded Japanese residents/nationals are authorized if they have a valid Japanese visa subject to the Japanese Government’s travel restrictions.
- Indian nationals having any valid visa subject to the Japanese Government’s travel restrictions are allowed.
It will be the airline’s responsibility to ensure that the passengers must not face any difficulties while landing in the intended country.
From Japan to India
- Stranded nationals/residents of India have permission.
- Any OCI cardholder having a valid Japanese passport is also authorized.
- Foreigners with a valid visa issued under the guidelines of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) by an Indian mission are also allowed.
To get complete detail of all the countries with whom India has made Air Bubble agreement, please visit the above link:
Restrictions for Vande Bharat Mission and Air Bubble flights
Here are some of the restrictions regarding who can fly via VBM and Air Bubble flights:
- Talking about the Vande Bharat Mission flights, you do not have many choices with the airlines. These airlines are connected with the Indian Government.
- As of now, Air India Express and Air India are the two most preferred flights for VBM. And to fly using VBM flights, you must be eligible as well as approved.
- Talking about the Air Bubble flights, you have plentiful choices. If you are traveling to/from any of the 23 countries with whom India is in a bilateral agreement, you can choose from the group of airlines allowed by the Government on that specific route.
- Despite the facility to choose under Air Bubble, you have the restriction to fly from only those airlines that belong to the destination country.
For Example, Virgin or BA can fly from the UK, United from the US, and Lufthansa from Germany only.
- However, foreign passport holders do not have any restrictions on air bubble flight; they can acquire any airline connecting to India.
- The restrictions have been imposed for the flights out of India. For example, Indian passport holders cannot fly from Lufthansa or Virgin on connecting flights beyond the EU or UK.
Which are the forms needed to be filled before the flight?
You might need to fill in various kinds of forms before your departure. Out of these forms, the “Air Suvidha Self Reporting Form” is a must for both the VBM and Air Bubble flights. You have to fill it online before your journey, but not before 72 hours of departure.
You may visit https://www.newdelhiairport.in/ to fill this form, and then you will get an approval/acknowledgment within a few hours.
Next would be the “Apply for Exemption” form, and it is also needed to be filled before your journey, ONLY if you are going to apply for exemption from institutional quarantine.
All the passengers will be quarantined for 14 days once they enter India.
If you do not qualify for an exemption, you will be quarantined at a hotel or any other location approved by the Government for the first seven days. You will be bearing all the costs for the initial seven days.
The next seven days will be the period of home quarantine.
If you are authorized for exemption, you can spend the entire 14 days in-home quarantine only, but 14 days quarantine is a must for all.
For Vande Bharat Mission Flights- As told earlier, you have to take approval from the IHC for traveling.
How can you register for the VBM flights?
As discussed above, first, you need to take approval from the IHC, and then you can register through the respective embassies. The further booking procedure will be done on Air India’s official website.
Being an Indian stranded, you have to bear your expenses to return home.
- Head on to Air India’s official website and click on the “Apply for Migrant Citizens” under the homepage section.
- Enter the relevant details.
- In the end, you have to fill the generated form along with uploading the necessary documents.
- You can take a print out of your form after applying.
There is no doubt that this Pandemic has shaken the whole world. Every sector and industry has come to a standstill due to this Pandemic. But we also cannot deny that our Government is doing everything possible for its people that it can do.
And the only way to get out of this dilemma is to unite and take care of each other.
We hope the above information will be useful to you. We wish you a happy journey!