India Suspends UK Flights As New COVID Variant Worries Mount

India has become the latest country to ban flights from the UK following the spread of a new strain of COVID-19. The Ministry of Civil Aviation has banned all flights originating in the UK until 31st December. The order comes into effect from 23:59 PM on 22nd December, which means passengers have two days to return to India.

British Airways Boeing 777-236(ER) G-RAES
The ban will affect several carriers flying between India and the UK. Photo: Vincenzo Pace |

Adding to the list

India is the latest in a long list of countries to ban flights from the UK. Following an announcement over the weekend that a new strain of COVID-19 is potentially 70% more infectious and fast-spreading through London, countries have moved swiftly to ban flights from the country.

A few hours ago, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) confirmed that India would close its borders to direct flights from the UK until 31st December. The tweet does leave open the door to one-way repatriation flights in the future.

For those wishing to return to India, the government has allowed flights to continue until 23:59 PM on 22nd December. This means any plane taking off or landing before this time can arrive in India. However, all passengers will need to undertake an RT-PCR test for COVID-19 at the airport upon landing from now until the 22nd. Following the test, normal quarantine procedures will likely be followed.

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Fares skyrocket

As with any emergency order, thousands have moved to quickly book tickets home. Flights for the 21st of December are no longer available, while those on the 22nd are continuing to rise. Just while writing this article, prices have jumped from $1,800 to $3,400 before my eyes. If you need to get back to India book, it’s time to book ASAP.

At the time of writing, the cheapest economy ticket is priced at $3,408, premium economy at the same price (likely due to the booking algorithm catching up to the surge), and business class at $6,824. Similar price jumps can be seen on other direct flights, while flights from London to Mumbai are no longer on sale.

Google Flight Delhi London
Flight prices have surged to over $3,400 at the news of the ban. Photo: Google Fights

Tickets will likely be all sold out in the next few hours as demand far outstrips supply. It should be noted that the order does not mention connecting flights, which means one could try and book those. However, the ban could be amended at any time, so booking those can be very risky.

Not the only one

At the time of writing, over two dozens of countries have closed their borders to the UK, while more do so at a dizzying pace. Nearby European countries make up a bulk of the bans, such as France, Germany, Netherlands, but countries like Canada, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Argentina, and others have shut flights too.

Air India 777
India is one of dozens of countries to ban flights from the UK in the last 24 hours. Photo: Vincenzo Pace |

Little is known about the new virus strain, however, countries are desperately trying to avoid importing the disease. However, the situation feels eerily similar to the one in March, when countries quickly shut their borders to prevent more cases. Please note that government guidance strictly asks residents of Tier 4 areas to avoid all international travel.