India Tells Passengers To Book Repatriation Flights With Airlines

The Indian government has said that passengers may book tickets with airlines directly, without registering with the government. This applies to flights departing India to foreign destinations under the travel bubble agreements or Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) flights. The news comes as more airlines start flights out of India and travelers begin returning to international countries.

Delhi Airport India
Passengers can now directly book flights with airlines on their outbound flights. Photo: Getty

No registration needed

A directive issued by the Indian Home Ministry last week stated that those traveling out of India must register with the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA). Passengers had to provide basic details such as departure, arrival airports, and flight numbers to MoCA or a designated agency.

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However, MoCA has clarified that all airlines under VBM and travel bubbles are designated agencies and passengers themselves do need to register anywhere. Passengers can now book tickets directly with airlines with no extra steps.

Airlines in India
Passengers can directly book tickets with airlines for outbound flights. Photo: Getty Images

However, these protocols do not apply for returning passengers to India. Those flying into India must fill in a form before arrival and provide details of their quarantine. Those with a COVID-19 negative test may isolate at home for 14 days, while others must quarantine at a designated hotel for seven days first before another seven days at home.

A return to regular flights?

India currently has a ban on all scheduled international flights until at least September. Instead, the only flights operating are those under the Vande Bharat repatriation mission and travel bubble agreements. Travel agreements are in place with several countries, including the US, UK, France, Germany, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, and Canda.

Qatar Airways plane
A number of foreign airlines have been able to resume flights to India thanks to travel bubbles. Photo: Getty Images

The decision to remove any registrations for outbound travel could signal that the government is more open to international traffic. The fall and winter tend to see high passenger traffic due to festivals and holidays. The Indian government is in talks with 13 more countries to form travel bubbles, greatly expanding flights in the coming months.

However, it is unlikely the government will lift the ban on scheduled flights. VBM flights have done quite well, bringing home over 350,000 Indians, and demand does not seem to be slowing. Travel bubbles also ensure foreign carriers have the chance to compete in the massive Indian market.

More airlines to come soon

With pent-up demand in the Indian market, airlines are pushing to start flights. Budget carrier SpiceJet has a deal with Hi Fly to repatriate Indian citizens, its first foray into long-haul operations. Japan, Australia, and Singapore are all on the list to sign agreements with India, allowing their respective carriers to fly to the country.

Airport queue on runway
Months without flights has meant pent-up travel demand in India. Photo: Getty Images

For now, Vande Bharat and travel bubbles are the only way to travel out of India and will remain so for the foreseeable future. However, expect rules and regulations around flights to be relaxed, as more travelers take to the sky in the coming months.

What do you think about India’s plans? Have you taken an international flight in or out of India? Let us know in the comments!