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India makes RT-PCR tests mandatory for passengers transiting through six Asian countries

Amid the fear of BF.7 variant of COVID-19 and the subsequent rise in cases in few countries, India has made it mandatory for passengers transiting through six Asian countries to take a RT-PCR test. The decision comes after India revised guidelines on 1st January 2023 which required travellers to take a RT-PCR test when arriving from the same six countries.

Transiting headache begins!

As of 1st January 2023, India is requiring all arrivals from China, Singapore, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand to submit a negative RT-PCR test report. Now, India has made it mandatory for passengers transiting through these countries to take a RT-PCR test. This is effective immediately.

Important: If you are travelling from or transiting through these six countries, please check with your airline about the entry requirements.

As per the guidelines issued by the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation, passengers will have to take a RT-PCR test no more than 72 hours before commencing their journey. This is applicable for transit passengers as well. The negative test report should be uploaded on the Air Suvidha portal.

The existing practice of randomly testing 2% passengers of every international flight, irrespective of the origin of the flight, will continue.

Major transiting hubs affected

Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and Japan are some of the biggest transiting hubs for those travelling to/from India from Australia, New Zealand, United States etc. The mandatory requirement to take a RT-PCR test when transiting through these hubs can badly affect the traffic on the following airlines: Singapore Airlines (Singapore), Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong), Thai Airways (Bangkok, Thailand) and All Nippon Airways & Japan Airlines (Tokyo, Japan).

These are some of the countries which have seeing a steady increase in passenger footfalls (transiting passengers) after the COVID-19 pandemic. The airlines have been enjoying good passenger loads on flights to/from India. This new requirement may deter some travellers to transit through this countries and instead transit via the Middle East or Europe.

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Frustrating for passengers

Let’s understand with an example for this will mean for passengers. Suppose a passenger is flying Singapore Airlines from Australia to India via Singapore with a layover of two hours. Now, he/she will either need to take the RT-PCR test before departing Australia or during the layover in Singapore. In the latter case, it is not guaranteed whether the passenger will get the test result back within time and if he/she does, then uploading it on Air Suvidha portal can also sometimes be a time-consuming process, after all it’s a Government of India portal. The express tests can also be quite expensive.

If he/she takes the test in Australia itself, that also can set back quite a few hundred dollars sometimes, thus significantly adding to the trip cost.

Who may benefit from this?

Air India. Air India has the most international nonstop flights from India. The airline has the largest schedule of flights of any airline to the United States. It also has quite a significant number of flights to Europe and a single flight to Tokyo, Japan.

The Delhi-based carrier operates flights to Melbourne and Sydney in Australia. Qantas may also see an uptick in passengers on its nonstop flights from Australia to Delhi and Bengaluru.

Air India can capitalise on this by adding extra flights from where the demand for nonstops rises.

The situation is continuously evolving and let’s hope the cases subside soon and we are back to the normal situation.

What do you think of India’s revised COVID-19 guidelines? Let me know in the comments section below.

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