Having to travel during COVID-19 made us realize how effortless and stress-free traveling was, not so long ago. The thought of traveling during the pandemic is giving most people jitters, even after a year since the outbreak of Coronavirus. But, just as many reasons might compel you to travel as the many health and safety concerns that urge you not to travel. And finally, when you decide to book the flight, you have so many questions in mind like the travel restrictions and quarantine rules at your destination, COVID protocols followed by airports and airlines, safety precautions to be taken, what to pack, etc. Here are the answers to seven of the frequently asked questions related to travel during COVID-19.
1. What are the safety precautions to be followed while traveling during COVID-19?
As a rule of thumb, you must use a face mask, wash/sanitize your hands frequently, and practice social distancing throughout the journey, if you are to travel during COVID-19. Get yourself tested before and after traveling. Check out our guide with essential information on the safe practices to be followed such as staying abreast of the airlines’ mask policy, availing contactless services of airports, disinfecting high-touch surfaces at airports and on planes, complying with the social distancing signage in public areas, and more.
2. What is the latest update on international flights to India?
As per the latest update from DGCA, India has extended the suspension of scheduled international flights to/from the country till 30 September 2021 (excepting international all-cargo operations and the flights specifically approved by the DGCA). However, India has been operating repatriation flights as well as the air bubble flights to/from the countries it has entered into a travel bubble agreement with.
3. Which countries does India have air bubble arrangements with?
India has established travel corridors with over 28 countries, including the US, UK, UAE, Qatar, Canada, Germany, France, Japan, Maldives, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Bahrain, Nigeria, Iraq, Kenya, Oman, Ukraine, and Sri Lanka. Under this bilateral air corridor arrangement, designated carriers of both countries are permitted to operate international flights between the two countries to facilitate passengers who travel during COVID-19.
4. Who can travel to India on air bubble flights?
OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) and PIO (Person of Indian Origin) cardholders holding passports of any country and foreign nationals intending to visit India for any purpose other than tourism can travel during COVID-19 to India on air bubble flights. India has restored all visas except e-Visa, tourist visa and medical visa.
Foreign nationals intending to visit India for emergency medical treatment may be granted a medical visa for an appropriate period. The country also permits the nationals of Nepal and Bhutan to enter India from any country.
5. What are India’s latest guidelines for international passengers?
All international travelers must submit a self-declaration form and a negative COVID-19 report (not older than 72 hours) on the Air Suvidha portal before the scheduled travel. International travelers coming from/transiting through the United Kingdom, Europe, Middle East, Brazil and South Africa shall be mandatorily subjected to self-paid confirmatory molecular tests on arrival (at the port of entry), while travelers arriving from other countries shall be allowed to leave the airport or take transit flights. However, they must self-monitor their health for 14 days isolating themselves at home. Click here for the detailed guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in Feb 2021.
6. Which cities is Air India operating US-India air bubble flights to?
Under its 9th phase, Air India operates air bubble flights from five cities in USA (New York, Chicago,Washington, Newark, and San Francisco) to seven Indian cities (Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai,Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, and Kochi). Air India’s 9th phase is scheduled to continue till October 2021.
7. How are airlines amending their cancellation and change policies in view of the coronavirus?
Considering the uncertainty of the COVID situation, several U.S airlines have waived the change fee on most domestic and international routes to provide more flexibility to their customers who travel during COVID-19. Major U.S. airlines like United, American, Delta, and Alaska have permanently eliminated the change fee for ticket holders in all classes except basic economy. Southwest Airlines continues to have no change fee and cancellation fee, without any limitations.
8. What are the safety measures implemented by airports and airlines?
Airports and airlines are taking strict measures such as the implementation of rigorous cleaning procedures, frequent sanitation of the high touch points, thermal screening of crew members and passengers, and enforcing social distancing guidelines to ensure the safety of both air travelers and their crew. Further, airports are also redefining passenger experience by turning to smart technologies and automating most airport operations.
As for the cleaning and disinfection procedures, United Airlines is using an antimicrobial coating for disinfecting the frequently touched surfaces, Delta is using electrostatic spray to sanitize the aircraft before every flight. Certain airlines like Lufthansa and Emirates are also providing the passengers who travel during COVID-19 with a complimentary hygiene kit containing a mask, disinfectant wipes, gloves, and hand sanitizer.
9.What to pack while flying during COVID-19?
From an extra pair of masks and gloves to cleaning and sanitation supplies like hand sanitizers, tissues, disinfectant sprays, wipes to items like a water bottle, travel pillow, etc. you need to add many items to your travel packing list. You could go through our blog on the ultimate packing checklist for travel during COVID-19.