Passengers travelling to UK via Schengen countries, barring Netherlands, are being asked for a transit visa before boarding their carriers, a rule that has disturbed the trade over hassles faced by clients.
The opening of borders and international scheduled flights from India in March was followed by many Indians headed to UK via EU countries being denied boarding, owing to lack of transit Schengen Visa. This requirement has been put in place now by Schengen countries, despite UK already following it for years, which is a clear result of Brexit. However, Indian passport holders travelling to the UK can transit the Netherlands without having to obtain a Transit Schengen Visa beforehand, announced KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. This requirement has left many confused and frustrated, leading to many changes in airlines at the last minute, which depends on availability of alternate flights at this time.
Guldeep Singh Sahni, MD, Weldon Tours and Travels, says, “Europe has responded back by putting this restriction and it’s between European countries and the UK, which always asked for a transit visa to go to Europe via any UK point. It is their tug of war and it’s going to impact both, especially their respective airlines. They have to do a rethink, because the volume from India is huge. People will now use any Middle Eastern carriers or direct flights.”
Geetanjali Alamshah, Director, Universal Journeys India, shares that people are not going to spend more money for applying for a transit visa after already applying for a UK visa. “The airline should be ready to absorb the cost. Now the countries and airlines should attract customers and show how easy it is to travel. This adds to the trouble with existing visa and airline issues. After making all bookings, it is difficult to look for direct airlines, but there is only limited capacity. Indians are last minute planners and applying for two visas in a short time doesn’t look feasible.”
Many had to even reschedule the tickets. Manish Kriplani, MD, Baywatch Travels, claims that they had to change many of their clients’ flights because of the transit visa requirement. “That has cost us a lot of trouble. While we haven’t had such volume of business even pre-COVID, these things become unnecessary hassles,” he shares.
“It’s a big disadvantage,” says Shravan Bhalla, Chief Executive, Highflyer and General Secretary, OTOAI. “Getting a second visa can be cumbersome. Even for applying, we need more time. People who are booked well in advance have been informed at the last minute that they cannot travel and require a visa. Thus, there’s a cost involved. If they had to do it, they could have given a window of six months or three months to implement it, allowing people to plan in advance or take direct flights to go to the UK,” he added.