How To Book Air India Flights To Leave India

When looking for flights out of India, it’s slim pickings for passengers. Currently, Air India holds a monopoly over the long-haul outbound market, which means you will likely be flying the flag carrier if you’re looking to travel out of Asia. But what is the procedure to book an outbound Air India flight?

Air India
Booking the outbound flight is a bit more complicated than booking a regular ticket. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

It must be noted that this article is about flights operating from India to a foreign country. For repatriation to India, travelers must contact their local Indian consulate to book flights.

Step 1: Check entry requirements

Your first step in the journey out of India is to check if you are eligible to travel. Nearly every country has placed some degree of border controls, making it vital to ensure you are eligible to enter. In the case where you are a foreign national returning to your home country, you can skip this step since just about all countries are allowing their citizens to return.

Most countries are allowing permanent residents and long-term visa holders (student, employment, etc.) to return too. Air India has compiled a guide to who is allowed, which is also the criteria it will apply to allow you to travel. Make sure you reach out to your local embassy if you are unsure about your entry criteria. It’s better to be safe than be turned back at the border (or find yourself stuck in the airport for months).

United Kingdom Border
Countries have varying degrees of border control, ranging from fully closed to open to all. Photo: Heathrow Airport

There are a few countries that have no entry restrictions, including both the US and UK. Barring travelers from a handful of high-risk countries (and the EU in the US’ case), borders remain open. However, it is recommended to avoid all non-essential travel to any country at this time and to remember you could be subject to quarantine on arrival.

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Step 2: Follow Air India

Here is where things diverge from your standard booking procedure. Since there are limited flights to the US from India, Air India notifies passengers over Twitter when ticket sales will open. These tweets usually include the time at which bookings open.

It might be best to keep notifications turned on, since flights tend to sell out fairly quickly on some routes. The Air India website is known to be full of glitches, which means your booking process might be less-than-smooth. Travelers have frequently complained of the website crashing due to heavy traffic and failed payments. Be prepared for a drawn-out process and hope you get your ticket.

Step 3: Pay the fare and get packing

One of the biggest criticisms of these flights is the extremely high fares. Prices can vary from ₹80,000 to ₹130,000 ($1,067 to $1,734), with the average price being around ₹100,000 ($1,330). This is much more than a usual one-way flight to the US, with many saying Air India is using this opportunity to profiteer from stranded travelers.

It should also be noted that United is now flying a number of charter flights to the US, which are priced at just ₹57,000 ($760). All of United’s flights are currently sold out, but it might be best to keep an eye out for their next sale.

United 787
United will fly a number of charter flights from India, priced much cheaper than Air India. Photo: United

If you’ve managed to get your hands on a ticket, it’s time to get packing! Service on these repatriation flights is quite limited. On Air India, you will find water, meals, and snacks at your seat upon boarding. There is no onboard service, even on 15-hour flights, which means it might be best to have your own food and drink too.

Air India does not practice social distancing on board, which means the flight will likely be full. It’s probably best to wear high-quality masks for the flight. Business class costs two times the economy fare, with first class going for four times higher. While this might be expensive, Air India’s virtual monopoly ensures that you will likely find yourself on an AI flight, at least for now.

Be sure to follow Simple Flying for updates on the next round of flights!

Have you taken or are planning to take a repatriation flight? Let us know in the comments below.