Indians flying EU carriers to UK will need Schengen visa

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EU carriers include popular airlines such as Lufthansa, Air France and KLM, which have stopovers in transit hubs at Frankfurt, Munich, Paris and Amsterdam.

Indians travelling to the UK on EU carriers are being denied boarding at the origin in India if they do not have a transit or regular Schengen visa, according to local media reports.

EU carriers include popular airlines such as Lufthansa, Air France and KLM, which have stopovers in transit hubs at Frankfurt, Munich, Paris and Amsterdam.

Post-Brexit, the EU is insisting that non-EU citizens must have a transit Schengen visa to fly to the UK on transit flights of its carriers.

Indians travelling to the UK can do so without requiring a transit visa if they have a stopover in Gulf countries or Switzerland, which isn’t a part of the EU and doesn’t require the Schengen visa rule for its carrier Swiss.

If passengers are denied boarding at the origin airport in India, they may or may not be eligible for a refund. “Passengers should be aware of the travel requirements, so refund depends on the conditions of the ticket bought,” an EU airline official was quoted as saying.

Interestingly, Switzerland — which is not a part of the EU — is spared of this rule for its airline Swiss. People going from India to the UK on one-stop flights can do so via places like the Gulf and Switzerland without requiring a transit visa for these places. The other option remains non-stop flights of Air India, Vistara, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

The change, say airline officials, took place in the middle of the pandemic from January 1, 2021. At that time, India had a bubble system for international connectivity with stringent conditions on which nationalities can travel which flights in terms of taking one-stops. The bubble system essentially was for point-to-point travel between India and other countries with conditional connections allowed to some. So at that time, travel between India and the UK happen mainly on direct flights or via places like the Gulf whose airlines did not strictly follow the no-transit rule for Indian travellers.

Now as regular flights resumed, many travellers — those without transit Schengen visas and booked on Lufthansa, Air France-KLM to fly from India to the UK — are being caught off guard when denied boarding at the origin airport in India.

“Passengers should be aware of the travel requirements, so refund depends on the conditions of the ticket bought,” said an EU airline official.

Afraid of losing business, some EU carriers are learnt to have requested foreign governments to raise this issue with the Union. After the resumption of scheduled international flights by India, foreign airlines can again offer one-stops between India and rest of the world.

This one-stop business has substantially gone up on India-US-India sector after Russia’s war on Ukraine. Due to longer routes and expensive jet fuel, US carrier United has reduced India non-stops by half; Delta has not resumed India flights it had suspended in March 2020 and American has only one daily (Delhi-New York). Till its fleet is augmented, Air India says it can’t add more non-stops to the US. As a result, the Gulf and European are getting a lot of business for this route.

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