India has added two new countries to the growing list of travel bubble nations. Uzbekistan and Seychelles are the latest entrants, allowing direct and some connecting flights from the countries to restart. India has now signed travel bubble agreements with 27 countries.
The new agreements clear the way for commercial flights from Uzbekistan and Seychelles to India to resume. Carriers like Air Seychelles and Uzbekistan Airways will benefit from this move since no Indian carrier currently provides direct services to either nation.
In addition to just direct flights, the government has allowed limited connecting traffic from the two countries. Any Indians or visa holders traveling from Africa are allowed to take connecting flights through Seychelles. Similarly, anyone Indians or visa holders from the Commonwealth of Independent States (minus Russia) can connect through Uzbekistan.
While the travel bubble rules do not allow airlines to carry connecting travelers, the government has made exceptions for regions with few or no direct flights. For example, Emirates can connect passengers from Africa and South America to India under the travel bubble.
Boon for flag carriers
As mentioned earlier, no Indian airline currently operates flights to either of the new travel bubble countries. This means flag carriers Air Seychelles and Uzbekistan Airways will have a monopoly on the direct routes (since connecting flights aren’t allowed).
Currently, Air Seychelles flies to one destination in India, Mumbai. However, since the pandemic, the airline has flown several repatriation flights to Ahmedabad, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, and others. With the travel bubble now in place, the airline can carry local traffic and travelers from South Africa (a much shorter connection than through Dubai).
Uzbekistan operates three routes from India to Tashkent, flying from Delhi, Amristar, and Mumbai. Data from RadarBox shows that the airline has already scheduled its first flight in nearly a year from Delhi to Tashkent for March 5th.
Seychelles open to tourists
As countries race to vaccinate their residents, Seychelles has raced ahead thanks to its population of roughly 100,000. Data from Bloomberg shows that the country has given over 58% of the population one dose of the vaccine and 25% are fully vaccinated. The quick rollout has allowed Seychelles to reopen its borders to vaccinated tourists as well.
The country will allow passengers who have completed their vaccination doses 14 days before entering the country with a negative COVID-19 test. This will be a huge boost to the local economy, which relies heavily on tourism.
India also opened up its vaccines to everyone over 60 this week, clearing the way for millions to get their shots in the coming weeks. Considering the Maldives’ popularity during the pandemic, Seychelles can expect substantial tourists once vaccines reach everyone.