It is no secret that the stoppage of commercial air travel over the past few months has left a lot of people stranded in India and also left a lot of Indians left stranded abroad. With this in mind, Air India was assigned the task of bringing back Indians from across the globe. Ideally, they are best suited for the mission given their wide-body aircraft portfolio. But Air India has been selling tickets on both legs for many flights, while the costs per seat were arrived at with the assumption that the outward leg would fly empty.
There has been a great rush for Air India’s flights, especially to and from the USA, with flights selling out three minutes after opening bookings. This also has been because a minimal number of flights have been operated in the first month of the repatriation flights mission. After a flurry of flights in Phase 3 to the USA, and the rap on the knuckles from the US DoT, in the fourth phase there were hardly any flights to the USA.
With the US-DoT withdrawing their order against Air India, and United now being able to operate (some) flights to/fro India, Air India has now planned to operate more flights to the USA. And they will now launch almost daily operations into the USA, flying to New York, Chicago, San Francisco from key metros in India (along with connecting flights into the rest of the country). Washington DC also gets flights three times a week. Air India has already dropped the fare of these flights, and if Indian authorities are to be believed, would drop it, even more, this time around.
Here is the flight schedule for the upcoming flights, 180 flights in each direction. The top set is India – USA flights and the bottom set is the USA to India flights.
Who all can fly to the USA right now?
As per Air India, there is no restriction for Indian Passport holders who are holding valid visas for the US.
Indian citizens seeking to travel on outbound Air India flights to the US, on the basis of their F1 visas, for higher studies may NOT be able to the USA on the current Air India repatriation flights under Mission Vande Bharat:
- Your F or M category visa has less than 6 months validity from the date of your planned departure
- You are a new admission case and have not as yet joined your educational institution before the COVID-19 outbreak. (Explanation: New admittees for the 2020 Fall term in US educational institutions are advised to consider deferring travel to the US to a date closer to the opening date of their institution, subject to local public health conditions.)
- In the case of continuing students, who are making normal progress in their course of study, and may have left the US to visit India before India’s Lockdown commenced, MUST check with their Designated School Officials to confirm the school’s operational status. Alternatively, they may obtain guidance on the School’s policy for foreign students returning to the US.
- In such cases, students MAY ONLY attempt to travel to the US with written documentary confirmation that the School is open. Without such documentation, even if continuing students have valid F or M visas, they may not be permitted to board an outbound flight. (Explanation: This is necessary. As some schools may not currently allow returning students to return to campus for an extended period of time)
Air India Flight Booking Online
Flights for India USA and USA India will be bookable at 2000 Hours IST ( 10:30 AM Eastern, 9:30 AM Central, 7:30 AM Pacific Time) on July 18, 2020. However, try a short while before the scheduled time of booking and you have a better shot at booking a ticket. Also, here are some tips to stay prepared for flight booking. This time around, the flight bookings will also be enabled with Travel Agents, so that should mean you can book via an OTA as well.
If you are looking to fly back between India/USA, you should be ready to book your tickets. If Air India’s track record is anything to go by, get yourself a lot of patience to go by, and if you have multiple credit cards, keep them along as well. Air India’s website will get slammed at the opening hour, and things will go wrong before they go right. The better way out is to try booking with an OTA this time around.
All the best!
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