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. Now, the number of Air India Evacuation flights is set to go up. From the USA itself, there will be a considerable number of flights that will be operated to India from June 10 to June 30, and similarly a lot of flights from Canada too.
Flights from the USA to India during Vande Bharat Phase 3 (Information as of June 6, 2020, 1200 IST)
Flights from Canada to India during Vande Bharat Phase 3 (Information as of June 6, 2020, 1200 IST)
AirIndia Flight Booking Online for Vande Bharat Phase 3
For the first few flights that Air India operated on behalf of the Government of India to bring Indians back from the USA and Canada to India, the Government asked the embassies and consulates based in those countries to choose who was eligible to go back. In these phases, the flights were too less, and the planning needed to be was much more. So now, Air India has been asked to operate many more flights (49 flights from the USA, 21 flights from Canada) in June 2020 itself. Due to the much higher number of flights, the embassies won’t be selecting the passengers anymore, but those who want to book these seats will be allowed to book it themselves on the Air India website.
Ticket bookings will begin on June 8, 2020, 1030 AM EST on www.airindia.in. However, there are certain things to remember before you try booking these tickets. First and foremost, you still need to be registered with the Indian Embassy in USA or Canada for a ticket on these flights. As per a notice from the Indian Embassy in Washington DC,
- Only those Indian nationals and OCI Cardholders with compelling cases and registered with the Embassy/Consulates will be eligible to travel on Vande Bharat Mission special flights to India.
- Indian Nationals: With the compelling cases such as those facing medical emergencies or requiring return due to bereavement in the family, students, pregnant women, elderly or those facing expiry of visas.
- Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) card holders: Minor children born to Indian nationals abroad and holding OCI cards, OCI cardholders who wish to come to India on account of family emergencies like death in family, couples where one spouse is an OCI cardholder and the other is an Indian national and they have a permanent residence in India, university students who are OCI cardholders (not legally minors) but whose parents are Indian citizens living in India. [Note: The OCI cardholders falling into one of the categories mentioned above will not require any fresh emergency visa].
- Stranded Indian nationals in US, desirous of availing special VBM flights to India, and have not yet registered with the Embassy/Consulate at (https://indianembassyusa.gov.in/reg_indian_nationals) are advised to do so at the earliest. For Canada, you register at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScHlPpg1hI-kQIp4SXqTcezMG1u2fH91pSNCq6uTXdMdkN-JQ/viewform?vc=0&c=0&w=1
- Permitted categories of the OCI Cardholders in US, desirous of availing special VBM flights to India, and have not yet registered with the Embassy/Consulate at (https://indianembassyusa.gov.in/reg_oci_indian_nationals) are advised to do so at the earliest. For Canada, you register at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScHlPpg1hI-kQIp4SXqTcezMG1u2fH91pSNCq6uTXdMdkN-JQ/viewform?vc=0&c=0&w=1
A note to this effect is also put up on the Air India social media handles now.
If you are looking to fly back to India from the United States or Canada, you should be ready to book your tickets at 1030 EDT on June 8, 2020. Before that, you would need to register your request with the correct consulate/embassy as well. And 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.
For the other countries, the process of booking via the embassy will continue for the time being.
All the best!
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