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Travel Industry bodies urge government to withdraw Air Suvidha form for international travellers

According to a report in The Hindu, the travel trade and hotel industry has sent multiple representations to the Union Minister for Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia demanding that the government withdraw the Air Suvidha form for self-declaration of COVID-19 vaccination status by international passengers arriving in India.

The Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI), wrote to the Minister on the matter on June 20, raising three main issues with Air Suvidha- a clumsy website, passengers unaware that filling up the form is mandatory, as well as unavailability of physical forms at airports for those who fail to fill up the form online before leaving their homes or hotels.

“It has been found in numerous occasions that the travelers are not aware of this mandatory requirement. The Online Travel Aggregators (OTAs) whom the customers mostly rely on for travel logistics, hardly inform the travelers about the same, resulting in the travellers getting to know about this form at the check-in counter only,” said the letter by FHRAI.

Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, Vice-President, FHARI, said that often when such passengers arrived at the airport they had to grapple with poor-quality WiFi or lack of internet access preventing them from filling up these forms online and consequently missing their flights. “The government talks about ease of doing business, it must also look at ease of travel,” Kohli said.

Uploading images of passports and vaccination certificates in specified file sizes and formats for those without high-speed internet can also be time consuming, he said. He has appealed that as an alternative, the government should ensure passengers have the option to fill physical forms when they arrive at the airport.

The Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) and the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) too made similar representations to the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Civil Aviation in June.

“The UK doesn’t require incoming passengers to fill a form any more, and many other countries like the U.S., Germany and Canada have relaxed many of their travel restrictions,” said Rajiv Mehra, President, IATO.

“No one even checks these forms when you arrive at an Indian airport. So why have them,” asks Jyoti Mayal, President, TAAI.

The UK’s passenger locator form introduced in 2020 was scrapped in mid-March when the country withdrew its last few travel restrictions, including a COVID-19 test for arrival. In June, the U.S. rescinded its order requiring international travellers to produce a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding a flight. Germany requires only those passengers who are traveling from a country with a COVID-19 variant of concern to fill up the self-declaration form.

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