My loyal readers must be aware that I was working from India, my native country since Feb this year. I went there for some work but got myself locked-down due to COVID. International travel was limited and only through Air India under Vande-Bharat Mission. Recently Indian government eased up travel restrictions and allowed more frequency of flights between India and other countries including U.S.
I was keeping a close eye to this progress as I was keen to return to my work location. Once I got the news, I booked the ticket for best available flight, booking itself was a funny story which I will cover some other day 🙂 . For now, I am just sharing my travel experience.
Flight – AI 191
Source – Mumbai, Maharashtra (India)
Airport Code – BOM
Destination – Newark, New Jersey (U.S.)
Airport Code – EWR
Date – Aug 8
Time – 1:30 AM
My wife and brother-in-law dropped me at Mumbai International Airport around 10 PM (heavy rain in Mumbai, still managed to reach 3 hour before) , airport was not crowded. There seemed to be no other flight operating other than mine. Outside the airport, there was a long queue of the travelers waiting for screening at the airport entrance. Before that, all passengers (including kids) have to fill 2 forms, each with duplicate sections.
My wife got the forms from airline representative (standing near queue) and bade me farewell. I filled out the forms while keeping my place in the queue.
Don’t forget to bring Pen
Form 1 : Medical and Immigration form
Basic information like name, address, mobile, passport, flight no., destination, arrival date, departure date, email and COVID questionnaire.
Form 2 : Risk Undertaking form
Basically says you understand the travel risk and in case of quarantine will bear the cost etc.
Just before the airport entrance, 3 airline executives inspected passport and above forms. Another standing guy took my temperature reading and conveyed to them. They crossed my name in passenger-name list they were maintaining and wrote down the temperature reading on health form.
Everything was normal (Thank God 😛 ), so I was asked to move ahead . Next was security counter where I was asked to uncover the mask, show ID (passport) and submit medical forms. Forms were returned to me after inspection and finally I stepped inside the airport. OMG 😱 , i can sense its gonna take long time.
Once inside, there was another queue, we had to submit the medical forms at an Air India counter where a guy (probably medical officer) checked the passport and took one copy of medical form and gave stamped one back.
Next was boarding pass. There was long queue but luckily all counters of Air India were open so it was moving quickly. I gave Risk form and passport to the lady at the counter and checked-in my baggage. She directed me to the gate and provided the boarding pass along with one copy of risk form.
Now comes the Security check. Boarding pass was required to be scanned to enter security check area. Security check was as usual (empty pockets, laptops, mobile, belt &shoes removal) ,not much difference except social distancing, that too self imposed.
That was quick and now comes the most time consuming part – “Immigration”. Not sure why officers were taking that much time, my feet got numb standing for close to 45 mins in queue. One British fellow jokingly said about officer – “He is trying to be employee of the month”. Well said !
Everyone near me was holding file-folder for god knows what reasons. As I recall from my previous trips, we don’t need any specific documents other than Passport and boarding pass. This got me nervous (was trying to find out what’s in those files), but when my number came, all was smooth.
Questions asked by officer :-
- When you arrived in India ?
- What you do in U.S. ?
- Do you have valid VISA ? (I had to show him, he was unable to find)
- Are you going to same employer or different ?
- Where is Omaha, NE ?
- Which field are you in ?
- Since how long you have been working in U.S. ?
- Fill out your Mumbai address in Medical form (I mentioned my native place address, they wanted the address from you are coming from)
Officer took the second copy of Medical form and stamped the passport. I reached at the gate and it was around 12:30 AM. During boarding, they checked the boarding pass and passport. One guy again checked the temperature and provided the PPE kit. My carry-on luggage was passed through a belt and full body scan was done by an executive.
So finally I boarded the plane. I had chosen window-seat and as I mentioned before in Domestic Travel , middle seat passengers have to wear gowns, so I was relieved. Flight was almost 90% occupied, seat next to me was empty. There were food packages having 3 bottles of water, muffin, banana, chips, bread sandwich, fruit juice etc. ,available on each seat. Whole idea was to avoid any kind of service.
Blankets and pillows were not provided, also TVs were non-operating (no headphones), charging port was working though. Journey was peaceful, spent mostly by playing Sudoku, reading (Reckoning by John Grisham) and sleeping.
When we were close to Newark, two forms were provided and plane was sanitized.
Form 1 : Custom
Declaration of assets and valuable you are carrying
Form 2 : Health Declaration
Similar to previous form with info about your flight, seat no., passport, country, dob, COVID questionnaires etc.
Flight reached on time and we were directed by airport staff towards immigration. Immigration was way quicker than expected, lines were short and moved fast.
Immigration officer looked for the forms, passport and boarding pass and asked following questions :-
- What’s your Visa type ?
- What’s the location you are going to ?
- Show me the supporting documents of your visa (i797)
I was asked to scan the right hand fingers and remove mask, glasses and cap to look into the camera. Once done, he stamped the passport and I was good to go.
At the Baggage claim area, there was huge crowd since they merged two flights’ (Delhi-US, Mumbai- US) luggage on same belt. After long wait, I collected my baggage and re-entered the airport for my connecting flight. My next flight was for the Omaha which I will cover some other day. I don’t want to make this too boring for you 😊.
If you have any question or doubt regarding the trip, leave comment below.