International travel has taken a huge hit ever since the Coronavirus pandemic began. Over the past year, considerable efforts have been made to address the demands of passengers seeking air travel. While International flights from the USA to India have faced their fair share of restrictions, significant efforts have been made to ease the life of passengers who require to travel between the two countries.
If you are considering taking a flight to India from the USA or vice versa, you need to read up on the particular conditions under which travelers are allowed to fly. This guide strives to address all the questions that you may have about traveling to India from the USA and all the necessary information you need to keep in mind.
Background of air travel between USA and India
Witnessing a surge in COVID-19 cases, India closed its international borders on 25th March 2020. The Vande Bharat Mission commenced as a repatriation mission after this on 7th May 2020. This mission aimed at bringing back Indians that were stranded in various countries across the globe.
While regular travel (resembling that of pre-COVID times) seems to be a distant goal as of now, options in air travel are being worked upon by concerned authorities. In such a situation, Vande Bharat Mission comes as a suitable option for people who wish to travel back to their homes in India.
Are any normal flights between India and the USA currently in operation?
India had an international ban on all international flights till 31st March 2021, which has now been extended to 30th June considering the ongoing conditions. Therefore, your answer to whether normal commercial flights are plying between the two countries is a No.
However, the government has allowed a few airlines to operate from various countries to India, including the USA. Tourists are still not allowed to travel from the USA to India. Only people who fit the required criteria, like Indian nationals or diplomats, are currently allowed to travel to India using the Vande Bharat Mission or the Air Bubble Transportation.
Can one book flights from the USA to India?
Yes, you can book flights from the USA to India, keeping specific terms and conditions in mind. You can refer to the information provided in this guide to find out if you are eligible to book these tickets and what other information you have to keep in mind while booking the tickets.
The Bubble Agreement
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has tried to address the passenger demand while maintaining safety and keeping due safety protocols in consideration. This has resulted in the permission for certain airlines to carry out their operations in compliance with safety practices.
The Bubble Agreement that India has entered with a few nations has allowed carriers like Air India to bring back Indians from various countries. Only carriers of countries that have this Bubble Agreement are permitted to operate currently. Over the past year, this Vande Bharat Mission has been successful in bringing back over 91 lakh people back to India from countries all over the world. The USA is one of the 28 nations that India has entered this agreement with. Other countries that passengers are allowed to travel to and from India under special circumstances are:
- the Netherlands
- Sri Lanka
Is it safe to travel to India?
Currently, India is witnessing the effects of the second wave of the pandemic. But the silver lining amidst the tragic situation is that the recovery rate is promising. It is expected to improve even more in the coming months. By following safety precautions and ensuring that you meet the travel requirements, you can safely travel to India via flights. The traveling passengers are required to wear masks, maintain social distancing with the other passengers, and frequently sanitize their hands.
That said, it is still not recommended to travel for non-emergency reasons. Since the risk of catching the infection is higher in the case of other factors like pre-existing medical conditions and age, it is recommended to avoid any unnecessary travel.
Where can I book the tickets?
If you are eligible for traveling and wish to book non-stop flights from the USA to India, you should head to any travel agency or airline of your preference. While earlier only Air India channels were allowed to sell these tickets, a lot of protest by other platforms ensued. As a result, you can choose any online booking platform to make the bookings. To find the best deals on these bookings, you can visit MintFares and compare the pricing offered by various airlines.
If you are traveling via Vande Bharat Mission, you have to perform an additional step. You have to register yourself with Indian Missions abroad. This step is not required for Air Bubble travelers.
Eligibility for booking tickets to India
Traveling for tourism or other personal short-term reasons is still not allowed. However, if the person is traveling for business reasons or moving to India as a resident, they may be allowed to travel. Following is a list of people who can book the USA to India flight ticket if they wish to travel back to India.
- Indian nationals that are stranded in countries outside India and wish to travel back
- Overseas Citizens of India with US Passports
- Foreigners with Business Visa (other than B-3)
- Diplomats holding valid Visa
5.Healthcare professionals, researchers, or technicians with a letter of invitation from a registered healthcare institution or research laboratory
- Technical engineering traveling to install or repair foreign origin equipment
- Professional traveling on behalf of foreign businesses
All visa holders (Business and employment) have to get their earlier obtained visas to be able to travel to India in the current circumstances.
Eligibility for booking tickets to the USA
You can also travel from India to the USA if you fall under any of the following categories:
- Legal permanent residents, US citizens
- Indian nationals with valid US visas
- Seamen with Indian passports
If you are an Indian citizen with a US Visa, the responsibility of verifying whether you can travel to the USA lies with the airline before they issue the ticket or boarding pass.
Requirement of COVID-19 negative test report
A question that passengers have about traveling from the USA to India is the requirement of a COVID-19 negative test report. All international travelers coming to India require a negative RT-PCR report. This is regardless of the vaccination status of the traveler.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has started a portal called Air Suvidha in association with Delhi Airport. This aims at making travel as hassle-free and contactless for international travels as possible. All passengers traveling from the USA to Delhi have to upload their negative RT-PCR report of a test taken within 72 hours before the beginning of their journey on this portal. Along with this, a self-declaration form also has to be submitted on this portal 72 hours before the start of the trip. Testing upon arrival may vary as per the ongoing guidelines of the country.
Safety precautions being taken for air travel
To ensure the safety of the passengers traveling via non-stop flights from the USA to India, additional measures are being taken by airlines. These include:
- Some airlines are providing protective gear to passengers flying with them.
- It is compulsory to wear masks for all passengers on board.
- Proper sanitization is being done every day.
- The passengers are being observed and tested for any associated symptoms pre-flight.
- Airlines are following a socially distanced seating plan for the safety of the passengers flying with them.
The exact safety protocols may vary from airline to airline, while all of them need to comply with the requirements stated in the agreement between the countries.
Popular airlines operating between the USA and India
Currently, only the airlines that fall under the Vande Bharat Mission or carriers included in the Bubble Agreement are allowed to operate. These include:
- Air India
- Air India Express
- Jet Airways
- American Airlines
- United Airlines
- British Airways
- Air France
- Air Canada
- Qatar Airways
- Virgin Atlantic
Out of these, Air India is offering the most frequent number of flights. All of the airlines mentioned above have to comply with the requirements laid down by the Ministry of Civil Aviation and follow due safety protocols to ensure safe travel from the USA to India and vice versa.
Details of flights from the USA to India
If you are looking to book flights from the USA to India, you can find tickets as cheap as $387 if you book them in advance. Airlines like Air India, United Airlines, and Qatar Airways are offering the cheapest prices for flights from the USA to India. You can compare between these prices and get the best deals on flights when you choose a reliable booking platform such as MintFares.
The fastest duration of a flight from the USA to India is 13 hours 45 minutes. You can easily find multiple options in airlines, prices, and routes when flying from the USA to India.
When will normal travel resume?
Considering the prevalent condition, it is clear that it will take some time for normal International flights from the USA to India to resume. Even domestic travel has been limited to a great extent owing to the lockdowns in multiple states within the country. The effect of the second wave or Coronavirus is expected to continue in the following months, and consequently, a limited number of flights will be allowed to operate. Once the states lift the lockdown, an increase in the frequency of domestic, as well as international flights may occur. But till then, any semblance of normal traveling seems unlikely.
While the slowdown in international flights is expected to continue for the upcoming year, special flights will continue to ply between India and other countries. Passengers can avail of these flights to travel from countries like the USA to India. People who had their apprehensions about traveling can now be relieved about the safety of flying from the USA to India, given they have a valid reason and supporting documents to be eligible for travel.
As per the latest guidelines provided by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), all international flights remain suspended to and from India until 30th June 2021. This comes as an extension of the ban that was earlier announced by the DGCA till 31st March 2021.
What to do till normal flights resume
Until the situation improves and normal travel resumes, special flights can serve as a reliable substitute. You can book the USA to India flight ticket to travel via the Vande Bharat Mission or Air Bubble. With the upscaling of the vaccination program in both countries, travel is becoming safer.
While normal international flights seem like a distant dream as of now, emergency flights are making the lives of travelers easier. Even with these special flights, proper care and precautions have to be taken by both the airlines as well as the traveling passengers. This is essential for the safety of all the people involved.
With the number of cases decreasing and more people getting vaccinated, there is the hope of life returning to the way it was in the upcoming year. However, even after lifting the restrictions, airlines may continue to either fly at limited capacity or have certain precautionary measures in place. Until this happens, you can fly to India under special circumstances and with all the valid approvals from the concerned authorities.
In case you have to travel to India for some unavoidable reasons, make sure to evaluate the risks associated with flying prior to booking the tickets. Also, be aware of all the safety guidelines and requirements laid down by the airlines. This can help you have a safe and hassle-free journey. The government is putting in immense effort to ensure safe traveling and trying to bring back some normalcy in the aviation sector.