If there’s one thing that is being discussed all over the Back to India community, that is “how and where to book flights back to India”.
There’s so much of interest in this topic and there are many false information spreading around, so I thought I’ll create a bookmark-able, reference article for anyone trying to book their flights back to India.
Of course, I’ll try and back up everything with reliable sources. So, here goes.
Context: Currently (as of June 10th 2020), there are only Vande Bharat mission, Air India flights operating to India.
You need to register with the nearest Indian Embassy in order to be able to fly on an Air India flight. Admission is on priority basis and there’s a long queue currently to get in. Those with family emergencies etc, can get priority boarding but the case has to be proved to the embassy.
If you are a US citizen, you cannot travel to India currently without an OCI card. If you don’t have one, you can apply for an OCI card online, but expect delays to get one than usual (3 months usually).
When can NRIs start booking flights back to India?
You can start booking flights right now for July/Aug through major ticket booking apps and directly from Air India (not part of Vande Bharat Mission). But there is no official word from the Indian Govt. on when international air traffic to India will resume. It will most likely be by June end or early July. But we have to wait and watch for the official news.
Can I book tickets on Air India directly?
You can book directly at the Air India website (airindia.in) or with third-party apps like MakeMyTrip or Booking.com
Do I need OCI card to be able to travel to India?
Currently, under the Vande Bharat Mission, you’d be able to travel with the OCI card if you apply with the embassy and is approves. But when the air travel is active again (possibly by end of June), you can travel just like you always did.
Do I need to let the embassy know?
Currently yes. You should let the nearest embassy know of your travel plans by email and follow up on your status by phone. This won’t be required once air travel is reinstated to normal, possibly by June end or early July 2020.
How can I let the embassy know?
You can let the embassy know by filling in this application.
Do US citizens need visa to travel to India?
Yes. US citizens, like always will need an eVisa to travel to India. You can apply for an eVisa here and get it via email in a few day’s time.
Can NRIs start booking flights directly to India on their own?
Yes. Post June 11th, you can start booking flights via Air India, on your own, but you still need to notify the nearest Indian embassy.
When will international flights to India resume?
India Govt, has clarified that as soon as foreign countries ease their restriction on international travel (including India) and allow travel, India will start operating international flights to and from India.
Can I travel in case of emergencies?
Yes. In case of emergencies like death in the family etc, you can travel on priority. While booking flights on Air India, they will ask for a self declaration/self acknowledgement before booking tickets. But this is purely based on availability.
Can you fly out of India to US or Canada during this time?
Yes. Air India’s Vande Bharat return flights are currently letting those in India fly to foreign destinations like USA and Canada. Flights to Europe will be open soon.
Why are flights unavailable to India on Air India website?
There is a huge rush from NRIs trying to return back to India and as soon as the site opened ticket booking, they got sold off. Currently, tickets to India are shown as “unavailable” for a long time.
Can I travel to India via non-Air India flights?
Not right now. But once international flights resume to and from India, you can book tickets yourself and travel to India. There could be restrictions, but nothing is declared officially as of now.
Can a US citizen travel to India under Vande Bharat mission?
No. You need to have an OCI card in order to be eligible to travel to India on Vande Bharat mission flights. Priority is given to Indian citizens and passport holders.
Are there any special charter flights to India?
Yes. Some private groups have initiated special charter flights to India during this time and you can book with them directly. Prices are higher and seat availability is on first come first serve basis. Example – https://www.usism.org/