Indian travellers must have a Schengen visa to fly to the UK on EU carriers post Brexit

With the resumption of regular international flights, a new phenomenon has emerged. If Indians do not have a transit/regular Schengen visa, they will be denied boarding at the origin in India on European Union (EU) carriers such as Lufthansa, Air France, and KLM, who are supposed to travel to the UK via these airlines’ hubs in Frankfurt/Munich, Paris, and Amsterdam, respectively.

According to top airline officials, this is because, following Brexit, the EU has decided to “punish” the UK by requiring non-EU citizens to obtain a transit Schengen visa in order to fly to the UK on transit flights operated by its carriers. Switzerland, despite not being a member of the EU, is exempt from this rule for its airline Swiss.

Indian travellers must have a Schengen visa to fly to the UK on EU carriers post Brexit

On one-stop flights from India to the United Kingdom, passengers can pass through the Gulf and Switzerland without needing a transit visa. Nonstop flights from Air India, Vistara, British Airways, and Virgin Atlantic are the other option.

The change took place on January 1, 2021, in the midst of the pandemic. India had a bubble system for international connectivity at the time, with strict rules about which nationalities could travel on which flights and how many one-stops they could make.

The bubble system was designed primarily for point-to-point travel between India and other countries, with some conditional connections permitted.

Switzerland, despite not being a member of the EU, is exempt from this rule for its airline Swiss.

So at that time, travel between India and the UK happened 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.

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 the rest of the world. This one-stop business has substantially gone up in the India-US-India sector after Russia’s war on Ukraine.

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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 Airlinea has only one daily (Delhi-New York).

ALSO READ – Tata negotiating aircraft order for Air India with Airbus and Boeing

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.

Brexit was the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU) at 23:00 GMT on 31 January 2020.

Brexit was the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU) at 23:00 GMT on 31 January 2020. The UK is the only sovereign country to have left the EU. It had been a member state of the union and its predecessor the European Communities (EC) since 1 January 1973.

Following Brexit, EU law and the Court of Justice of the European Union no longer have primacy over British laws, except in select areas in relation to Northern Ireland. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 retains relevant EU law as domestic law, which the UK can now amend or repeal.

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