It is still not seamless, if not impossible altogether, for any Indians stranded in New Zealand wanting to travel back home for any emergency to travel via the newly announced “air travel bubble.”

Notably, India’s Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had on Thursday, July 16, said that India had signed bilateral air bubble agreements with France and the US that will allow airlines from these countries to operate international flights.

Since then the Indian Weekender has seen some adventurous enquiries from people genuinely seeking to travel to India at the earliest exploring possibilities of either connecting to these exclusive “air bubbles” if independent travel to those destinations was possible at all.

Such enquiries have increased after the recent announcement of the postponement of the two Vande Bharat Mission repatriation flights which were earlier scheduled on August 8 & 13 from Auckland.

Following up on one such request from a distressed member of the community, who needed to travel back urgently to say a final goodbye to his ailing father via Dubai, if possible, an enquiry was sent to the office of the Indian High Commission, which had further approached to the office of the Indian consulate in Dubai for full clarification.

Responding to the enquiry cautiously, Paramjeet Singh, Second Secretary, in the office of the Indian High Commission said, “First of all we need to be careful to avoid confusion between being able to travel to India through Vande Bharat Mission’s UAE leg and the prospects of being part of newly announced air-bubble with selected countries.”

“These are two entirely different issues,” Mr Singh said.

A travel bubble or a bilateral air bubble is a travel corridor between two countries that wish to reopen their borders and re-establish connections with each other. This is an exclusive partnership considered between countries that have either largely eliminated the virus or trust the testing numbers.

India has already established travel bubbles with the United States and France. It is considering similar arrangements with Germany and the United Kingdom.

However, there has not been much clarity on who can eventually travel within these designated air bubbles, and if there was any possibility from people in other parts of the world, such as New Zealand to travel to such destinations to be able to further travel to India.

“We have clarified with our Indian Consulate office in Dubai, who have provided guidelines on how someone can avail the facility of Vande Bharat Mission’s UAE leg repatriation flights.” Mr Singh said.

However, that will be helpful only if the person is able to travel to Dubai in an unrestricted manner.

The Indian Weekender checked with the Emirates Airlines contact centre and found that currently, the airlines is not taking any passenger with a one-way travel request for other than returning residents to UAE – thus making any further travel opportunity with the UAE leg of Vande Bharat Mission non-existent.

However, the Indian Weekender has learnt that few desperate passengers have been assured by some travel agents that a direct unrestricted flight from NZ to India via Dubai was available.

When the Indian Weekender independently sought to make a booking for such a flight, the customer service rep was able to offer such a flight for August 11.

It was only when asked explicitly, if there were any government restrictions on the commercial airlines to fly to India, did the customer rep disclosed that the flight was subject to government approval.

It seems to be clear that under the current regime of global travel restrictions any hope of being able to travel to India via the newly announced “air travel bubbles” to selective countries, or other routes, is at best a wishful thinking.