Indian Airports to offer RT-PCR testing for international arrivals (transferring passengers only)

From August 8, 2020, Indian authorities had made a new provision for international arrivals into India. As long as passengers departing for India from international airports carried a CoVid-19 negative RTPCR test certificate which was done within 96 hours of departure, they won’t need to do a 7-day institutional quarantine in Delhi or whatever major airport they land from outside the country at.

a test tube with a barcode on it next to a medical kit

Now, Test on Arrival to skip Institutional Quarantine.

In a further modification of this provision, the Government of India has now made provisions for RT-PCR testing at the entry airports for arriving international transfer passengers only for now. The new guidelines apply for international passengers, who arrive at an entry airport in India without RT-PCR Negative certificate and need to take a connecting flight to domestic destinations in India.

Passengers will have an option of getting RT-PCR test done at the entry airport for India. If the RT-PCR test results into a CoVid-19 negative report, the passenger will be permitted to take a connecting flight to other domestic destinations in India without needing to be quarantined at the city of entry airport.

For this to take off, airport operators, such as DIAL, MIAL and AAI will have to create a Sample Collection cum Waiting Lounge facility for RT-PCR testing and sample collection at the airport along with a waiting facility. One representative of State authorities (of entry airport) will also be present in this lounge.

Airports will provide options to the passengers to make online booking of the RT-PCR test through their website or other appropriate online platforms. Once passengers arrive at the entry airport, airport operator will have to lay down a well-defined flow for such passengers at their respective arrival terminals leading to the collection area and the exit from the terminal. This will be after the Customs inspection area, and before the exit door from the airport terminal.

The Waiting Lounge should be located away from the Operational area but should be sterile with no access to any unauthorized personnel. It will provide necessary amenities to the passengers like Wifi, F&B options, washrooms etc. The lounge will provide to the passengers’ cashless options for making payments concerning testing and various amenities etc.

Testing process and further action

The passport of the passenger will be retained by the State representative at the Sample Collection area until the Test results are available. Once the test result is available, the passenger will be intimated. If the result is negative, the passenger will be stamped ‘RT-PCR negative’ and ‘State Quarantined till [applicable date]’ on the hand by the State representative available at the Waiting lounge, will be handed over his/her passport, and will be permitted to exit the waiting lounge and proceed to the Departures to catch the connecting flight. If the result is positive, the passenger will be processed in line with applicable ICMR protocols by the State authorities, which might include a 7-day institutional quarantine on arrival.

Time taken for processing

The test results will take anywhere between 1.5-2.5 hours for RT-PCR by GeneXpert and 6 -7 hours for RT-PCR by other methods. Hence at the Sample Collection cum Waiting Lounge, Airport Operator shall provide to the passenger’s option to either stay at the Waiting Lounge awaiting the test results or to proceed to designated Hotel(s) to isolate themselves till the Test results are available.


While it took us many months to get our act together here in India, it seems like CoVid-19 testing on arrival and departure will become the norm eventually while you travel, as long as we don’t find a cheaper and/or quicker way to isolate virus carriers. There is no fixed date as to when will this be launched at the moment at various airports, but some initial feedback shows that airports have already started working in this direction. For instance, Delhi Airport Terminal 1 metro station seems to be designated as a waiting lounge and sample collection centre for Delhi airport.

What do you make of this new move to offer testing at Indian Airports?

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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