India closes down access for air travel from/via Europe from March 18, 2020 onwards

As the CoronaVirus outbreak continues to spread, governments around the world continue to evaluate their response. Air travel has taken a beating given the contagious nature of the virus, and hence, demand is down, way down. India, as a measure of response, had already closed out their borders to all visaholders/OCI not in India as of a specific date. Essentially, visa-free access to OCI holders was cut off, and visas are suspended at the moment, so India would not be able to accept any passenger who is travelling to India at the moment, who does not have an Indian passport.

Now, an updated travel advisory has been issued by India on March 16, 2020. The advisory reads as follows:

In continuation of the travel advisory issued on 11th March 2020, the following additional advisory is issued:

(i) Expanding compulsory quarantine for a minimum period of 14 days for passengers coming from/transiting through UAE, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait. This will come into effect from 1200 GMT on 18th March 2020 at the port of first departure.

(ii) Travel of passengers from member countries of the European Union, the European Free Trade Association, Turkey and United Kingdom to India is prohibited with effect from 18th March 2020. No airline shall board a passenger from these nations to India with effect from 1200 GMT on 18th March 2020. The airline shall enforce this at the port of initial departure.

(iii) Both these instructions are temporary measures and shall be in force till 31st March 2020 and will be reviewed subsequently.

Quarantine for those using the Middle Eastern Carriers to arrive in India

Point 1 of the advisory is clear. If you fly into India via UAE (Emirates/Etihad/FlyDubai/Air Arabia/Air India/IndiGo/Air India Express/SpiceJet/Vistara), Qatar (Qatar Airways/IndiGo/Air India), Kuwait or Oman, you will be subject to a compulsory quarantine for 14 days in India. Since foreigners are not allowed in India and Kuwait Airport is already shut to commercial aviation, for now, this would be largely focussed on Indians coming back to the country via UAE and Qatar carriers. If you get on a flight before 1200 GMT on March 18, 2020, you can escape this quarantine, although you should still self-quarantine for 14 days at the minimum.

Passengers (including Indian passengers) transiting on European Carriers will not be accepted into India

Foreign arrivals and OCIs arriving into India are already closed, so this is focussed on Indians travelling back from Europe or via European carriers. India has decided that these passengers, even if they are Indian passengers, will not be allowed to get back to India, if they are not already on a plane by 1200 GMT on March 18, 2020.

There is a vast network of airlines already closing down their long-haul networks, but this just means that the residual traffic will also be closed down. You will no longer be able to use the likes of British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa, Air India, Finnair, Turkish Airlines and others to travel to India altogether since you will not be allowed to board your flight at the initial point of departure. This might also mean if as an Indian residing in the UK, let’s say on a student visa, you are flying via Qatar or UAE, you won’t be accepted in India anymore.

Effectively, this means that since Indians as well as foreigners won’t be allowed to travel onwards to India unless airlines are operating flights to fly back those who are in India to the UK, Germany or wherever else they want to fly. So airlines will operate empty aircraft one way if they fly to India.

If you are in the USA and an Indian, you could still take the non-stop Air India or United Airlines flights after this date and come back to the country. If you are in Europe and you make it to, let’s say, Australia, and fly back to India, you would still be taken in.

Both these measures will be valid through March 31, 2020, but subject to further review.

What can I say, if you are still outside the country, get back on a plane soon? Else, plan for a long haul in the other country!

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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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  1. Hello,

    So I am travelling from germany to india through qatar. Would there be any problems?
    Its a UAE carrier btw(Qatar Airways). If yes then what is the solution i.e, how can I go back to India?


  2. Are flights out of India still continuing? My father in law is due to come back on 23 March on Virgin Atlantic. I keep checking the live schedule and it still shows ‘On Time’ so assume it’s still going ahead.

  3. Hi,

    what about Indian passport holders (from US/Caribbean/South/Central America) ‘transiting’ via UK or Amsterdam or Paris after 18 March?


  4. Hi can fly in Paris or Switzerland in 20th may for 5 days…its awited holiday for my family…tickets hotel conform with health insurance?

    • Flying from Moscow should be fine, if you’re flying back direct. All other options out of Russia (outside of maybe Air Astana, but most of it is grounded) require Middle Eastern or European carriers, so will lead to a 14 day quarantine.

  5. Hi Ajay,
    I am travelling from London to Bombay on the 18th of March and the flight timings displayed are 12.05 hrs , since the flights are going to suspend from 12.00 hours, will be able to fly to India? Also, are these the local timings or the Indian timings?

    • @Abhishek, all timings in the notification are in GMT. Perhaps your flight will be moved by a few minutes to get around this situation? Which airline is this?

  6. Hey Ajay, Thanks for this. I kind of “half” know the answer, but just reconfirming.

    I am flying KLM from JFK to BOM (20.30 pm EST on 17th March) via Amsterdam. The flight takes off from Amsterdam at 11.55 am Amsterdam time on 18th March, which is 10.55 GMT. You reckon this should be okay right…. though just by a whisker.

  7. Hi Ajay, thanks for reporting and keeping us updated in the ocean of news floating around.

    Does it surprise you that Indians themselves won’t be allowed back into their own country? I haven’t heard or seen such a notice put up by any other country yet, where they ban their own citizens to return.

    Seems like a backlash is imminent. Thoughts?

  8. Indigo..goair.vistaraand spiceget are putting our call on hold.more than a week now we are calling them almost whole day but they are not cooperating and not ready to give us waiver

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