Indian Government eases rules to fly on Air Bubble flights for Indians

India has struck air bubble agreements with 23 countries so far, with Nepal being the latest to sign up. India’s Air Bubble agreements, unlike the other arrangements being struck around the world, are not correlated to a similar amount of infection ratios or reduced testing requirements. The Indian Air Bubble arrangements typically involve that India and the other country’s designated airlines would be able to operate non-stop flights between India and the other country, and citizens of India be not allowed to use sixth-degree traffic rights (i.e., transit at a hub in the Middle East, South East Asia or Europe for instance).

India Air Bubble Countries so far

The countries which have Air Bubble arrangements with India so far include:

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Bahrain
  3. Bangladesh
  4. Bhutan
  5. Canada
  6. Ethiopia
  7. France
  8. Germany
  9. Iraq
  10. Japan
  11. Kenya
  12. Maldives
  13. Nepal
  14. Netherlands
  15. Nigeria
  16. Oman
  17. Qatar
  18. Rwanda
  19. Tanzania
  20. United Arab Emirates
  21. United Kingdom
  22. The United States of America
  23. Ukraine

Like I mentioned ahead, India has been very protective about their citizens transferring at various airports, and has been insistent that people fly only non-stop between India and another country. Hence, till so far, no carrier has been allowed to offer transfer tickets from India for Indian citizens.

For instance, if you wanted to fly from India to the USA as an Indian citizen, you can only fly Air India or United, which are the two non-stop operations between the two countries. You can’t fly via the Middle East or Europe and the Air Bubble arrangements with these countries bar them from selling India-Middle East/Europe-USA tickets for instance.

New rules for transfer passengers on India Air Bubble Countries flights

However, a series of changes have been made today, ensuring more people can fly through India Air Bubble Countries flights. Here are the key changes:

  • Passengers of Nepalese & Bhutanese nationalities, along with Indian nationals have been allowed to travel on flights under Indian air bubble arrangements with Ethiopia, France, Germany, Iraq, Kenya, Netherlands, Qatar, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ukraine & UAE. This means passport holders of Nepal and Bhutan can now arrive into India and pillion ride on Air India and other airlines operating flights to these nations now, or arrive from these nations and fly to Nepal/Bhutan.
  • Indian passengers travelling under air bubble arrangements with France, Germany & Netherlands can now further travel to EU/Schengen area, South American & African countries. Travellers of bubble arrangement between India-Qatar & India-UAE can further travel to South America & Africa.This makes a lot of sense, because KLM/Air France and Lufthansa connect a lot of South America from Europe. Also, Qatar Airways and Emirates have connectivity in South America and they were barred from flying Indians to these countries so far. In reality, some carriers were already operating these routes, so this is more a regularisation of the Air Bubble agreement accordingly.
  • Passengers travelling under Air Bubble arrangement between India & Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda & Tanzania can also travel to any country in Africa. Passengers travelling between India- Ukraine can travel to & from CIS countries, except Russia. Again, given that Indian Carriers won’t have the ability to reach each of the other African countries, they are now permitting airlines locally to operate the second leg of the flights.

All of these decisions were put out on Twitter by the Ministry of Civil Aviation today.


Opening up Sixth Freedom traffic to South America, Africa and intra-Europe is a step in the right direction I’d say. Having said that, the lucrative North American and European routes such as those to London have still been saved up for Indian carriers and the carriers of the other counterparty countries for now. How long does this last, we don’t know yet.

What do you make of the new rules under the Indian Air Bubble Arrangements? Are you planning to fly to any India Air Bubble Countries?

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  1. Mayopic policy by the government. The only loser has been the indian citizen. Licence Raj was exactly like this. Why as an Indian citizen should I have to choose only air india or one other carrier to fly to the US. This is not at all about the virus anymore, only to fill Air India coffers at the cost of indian citizens. Don’t we already pay enough through taxes to keep air india flying??

    • This works well for both US and Indian carriers hence this arrangement – effectively keeps out ME carriers.

      And this isn’t the first time. When Jet expanded internationally, a lot of it was on the back of cutting down extremely profitable routes for AI.

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