The Indian government has still not reached an air travel bubble deal with South Korea, even after 23 months of the Covid-19 pandemic. This has prevented most Indians working in South Korea from returning home to visit family. Direct flights between the two countries were suspended in March 2020.
Nearly 14,000 Indians work and study in the Southeast Asian country, many of whom cannot afford the return trip without the air bubble. Previously, travelers paid between Rs 40,000 and Rs 50,000 for a round trip non-stop in India, but now they are forced to pay between Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.2 lakh for a round trip with a stopover of sometimes 11:00. This means that a couple with a child traveling to India and back must spend around Rs 3.5 to 5 lakhs.
Transport bubbles are temporary agreements between two countries aimed at restarting commercial passenger services as scheduled international flights have been suspended following the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the countries in East Asia and South East Asia, India has transport bubble agreements only with Singapore and Japan.
India has such agreements with 40 countries including Australia, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Canada, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kenya , Kuwait, Maldives, Russia, Netherlands, Nigeria, United Kingdom, United States, United Arab Emirates, Tanzania, Switzerland and Sri Lanka.
Most passengers have only two options: to book seats on flights chartered by Asiana, which are extremely expensive. These always have a chance of being canceled due to the large number of passengers who have booked the flight, in addition to the restrictions for Indians, if they want to board this flight from India. The second option is to fly with Emirates or Qatar Airways transiting through Dubai or Doha with an extremely long layover period.