Red List Addition Prompts Surge of India-UK Flight Bookings

The UK government added India to its red list of countries on Sunday, severely restricting travel. The sudden announcement led to a surge of flight bookings, with all flights sold out within a few hours of the announcement. The ban kicks in on 04:00 UK time on the 23rd of April, with the government only giving three days notice this time.

India, England, Red List
India has set strict limits on flights to and from the UK every week, reducing seat availability at this key time. Photo: Vincenzo Pace – Simple Flying

Sold out

Since January, India has set a limit of 30 weekly flights (15 in and 15 out) for travel to the UK. This limitation has meant that a booking surge on Sunday resulted in all flights from the 19th to 23rd of April being sold out in a matter of hours. This has left thousands of travelers without a way to return to the UK before the ban.

Moreover, government rules do not allow airlines to increase frequencies without prior permission. At the time of writing, no airlines have announced additional flights to the UK, as has become common after a red list additions for other countries.

British Airways Boeing 777-200ER
The market between India and the UK is extremely lucrative for airlines with strong leisure and business demand. Photo: Vincenzo Pace – Simple Flying

Four airlines currently offer services between the countries, flag carriers Air India and British Airways, along with Virgin Atlantic and Vistara. Virgin Atlantic operates three routes from Delhi to London, Delhi to Manchester, and Mumbai to London. Vistara, which started flights in August, offers two routes from Delhi and Mumbai to London.

Meanwhile, British Airways and Air India offer more expansive schedules from India. BA flies to London from Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad. Meanwhile, Air India, under the Vande Bharat repatriation scheme, also serves the above four cities. Previously, the carrier had a massive nine routes, but this was scaled back due to India’s UK travel ban.

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What if I need to fly?

For those hunting for flights, there are few options left. The best chance to get a direct flight would be to call up airlines and ask to be added to a waitlist, although you are highly unlikely to find a seat due to demand. Connecting flights could be a possibility, but there are a few caveats before booking those.

Under India’s travel bubble rules, airlines cannot connect passengers beyond their home countries (with a few exceptions). This means you might have to break your trip, i.e., book two separate tickets and re-check in at the connecting airport. This poses a problem since international borders remain largely closed to travelers from India.

Bangladesh, Flight Ban, Airlines
The UK’s red list means that usual connecting options like Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar remain off the cards. Photo: Getty Images

For now, travelers should keep an eye out for announcements for additional flights from India to the UK. India will likely remain on the red list until cases begin to come down, which could take months at the current pace. For now, options for travel remain limited.

What do you think about the UK’s red list decision? Let us know in the comments.