Like many other Indians, I traveled on one of the air bubble flights from USA to India in the first week of this month (October). I traveled on United Airlines during the international leg of my itinerary from Newark to Vijayawada (AP) via New Delhi, and the domestic leg was operated by Air India. I relied on Indian Eagle for the hassle-free booking of my trip in compliance with the Government of India’s travel regulations for international flyers.
Upon confirmation of my reservation on United Airlines’ air bubble flights, I received two forms to my registered email ID: one for entering India and the other for entering my home state. The forms needed me to furnish such details as my US contact number, a local contact number in India, my address in the home state, and my declaration that I would undergo 14 days of home quarantine at the final destination. It was easy to fill out the forms, an obligatory part of the new ‘normal’ travel to India. I also filled out a mandatory self-reporting form on Air Suvidha, a dedicated section of the New Delhi Airport website for international arrivals.
I did not register with the Indian Consulate in New York for my travel to India, as this requirement was scrapped by the Government of India in September 2020. Indian Eagle also confirmed in one of their travel news articles that registration with the Indian Embassy/Consulate is not required any more.
Covering your face with a quality mask is mandatory right from the entry to the departure airport until the exit from the destination airport. I kept on wearing a face mask and a face shield throughout my flight. The face shield was provided by United Airlines at the time of boarding. Overall, the flight was smooth and United Airlines’ inflight services were normal.
After I arrived at Delhi IGI Airport and got past the customs, I was asked whether I was COVID-19 negative to continue my onward travel to Vijayawada. You can either take a RT-PCR test 96 hours prior to your scheduled departure from the port of origin (first US airport in your itinerary) or get tested for COVID19 upon arrival at Delhi IGI Airport. As I did not carry a negative RT-PCR test report from Newark and my domestic connection time was as long as 11 hours, I chose to undergo a test at Delhi Airport itself.
I must say New Delhi International Airport has impressive COVID testing facilities. The officials took away my passport, provided me with a face shield, collected my swab, and gave the test report within 5 hours. I got back the passport too. While I waiting for the test result, I got access to a lounge and some refreshments. Social distancing was a must in the lounge. The testing and the lounge service cost me Rs. 5000 in total. As I tested negative, I was allowed to proceed to catch the domestic flight to Vijayawada. Travelers should carry minimum Rs 10,000 in cash or card.
The negative test report helped me get exempted from 7-day institutional quarantine in Vijayawada. At Delhi Airport, one of my hands was stamped indicating the date till which I needed to undergo home quarantine at the final destination. The ink was erased in two days.
Please note the customs and immigration clearance is taking longer than usual due to social distancing at New Delhi Airport. I truly appreciate the airports, the airlines and the respective governments for taking practical measures to make travel safer for us in the current unprecedented times. The most important tip I would like to give is that travelers should have a gap of 8-9 hours between their arrival at a major port of entry and their domestic connection in India. Brace yourself for the new normal of travel with a face mask on amid the pandemic.
We at Travel Beats, a leading community portal for Indians in USA, are pleased to have published Vineesha Badabhagni’s US to India travel experience amid the pandemic. Vineesha shared her travel experience with Indian Eagle, a trusted travel-booking partner of Indians in America, and gave her consent to publishing it.