India has entered into bilateral air bubble agreements with 18 countries. Under these agreements, two countries agree to operate direct passenger flights both ways in order to operate normal flights between them once things get back to normal after the pandemic.
The list of countries India has a travel bubble with are the US, the UK, Germany, France, the UAE, Maldives, Canada, Japan, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Qatar, Iraq, Oman, Bhutan, Kenya, Bangladesh and Ukraine.
Citizens or residents of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries (except Russia), any Indian citizen, including diplomatic and official passport holders, citizens with any valid visa in Qatar and CIS countries (except Russia) are allowed to travel under this agreement to Qatar.
It will finally reside with the concerned airlines to ensure no travel restrictions for Indians to enter the respective country with a particular visa before issuing tickets to them. Similarly for those coming from Qatar there are a few criteria to be ticked off and measures to be taken care of. Indian nationals stranded in Qatar, OCI card holders with Qatari passport, Qatari citizens with valid Indian visas are all allowed to travel. The air bubble agreement is valid till October 31, 2020 and therefore all bookings must be made by then.
Another air bubble pact has been formed between India and Germany and flights will operate between the two from October 26 and March 28.
Air India will be operating the flights several flights every week from Delhi and Bangalore to Frankfurt. Previously there were issues and concerns that had surfaced between Lufthansa and the national carrier pertaining to number of flights and the schedule. Similar criteria and measures exist for this agreement as well. People travelling to Europe and transiting through Germany, their spouses accompanying them or otherwise can travel from India to Germany under the bilateral agreements. Similarly Indian citizens or residents with valid passports fulfilling MHA guidelines can travel back to India from Germany.
Travelling to Afghanistan from India can be done by Afghan nationals, Indian and foreign nationals with valid visa and passports and the same for those travelling to India as mentioned by guidelines under the MHA. Similar criteria lie for the Bahrain, Kenya and Bhutan, Iraq, Japan, Maldives, Qatar, UK, USA and Oman. The airline will have to finally ensure that there are no other travel restrictions for the people travelling under the particular visa permit before issuing their tickets and boarding passes.
Besides these conditions and anyone with a valid visa destined to travel to EU there is also a provision for foreign nationals and seamen stranded in India with proper visa which is subject to clearance from the Ministry of Shipping will be allowed to travel back to Canada from India. This condition is also applicable for seamen going to Nigeria as well.
Along with seamen those destined for any African country with valid visa and passport transiting through Nigeria can also travel under this agreement. Seamen travelling to UK and USA too fall under these criteria. Everyone is required to follow the latest MHA guidelines pertaining to visa amendments and updates.
The central government had launched the Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) to bring back repatriate Indians back to India. Air India was initially chosen as the only international flight to operate under this and was later joined by Spicejet to operate flights to the British capital. The mission is in its sixth phase and is expected to continue till November 30.
According to the Civil Aviation Ministry, almost 7,052 repatriation flights were operated by Air India carrying over 9 lakh stranded Indians. With Unlock 5 being implemented, India has steadily opened up its borders and travel sector with many such travel bubbles and bilateral agreements.