Travel to India from US — a 36 hours long journey in Covid time

Abhishek Agarwal
5 min readNov 10, 2020


With my MBA classes at Yale in a hybrid model- option to attend lectures both in-person and virtual format — I traveled to my hometown. My hometown — Panjipara- is a small village in West Bengal, a state in the eastern part of India. Bagdogra is the nearest airport.

I had a flight reservation from JFK (New York airport) to Delhi in Qatar airways for 04th of November, but around mid-October, I received the flight cancellation email from them. Qatar gave me 4 options (in the appendix):

I had a flight reservation from JFK (New York airport) to Delhi in Qatar airways for 04th of November, but around mid-October, I received the flight cancellation email from them. Qatar gave me 4 options (in the appendix):

I evaluated all the options and opted for a refund. They refunded me the full ticket amount within a couple of days.

I had another reservation from Delhi to Bagdogra on Vistara for 06th morning IST, so I looked at flight options that can help me use the booked ticket. Cutting the long story short, I made a reservation on Air India flight AI 102 for 04th November. It was a direct flight of around 14 hours from JFK to Delhi.

I looked at Delhi airport’s Covid guidelines for the international passengers. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India has made it mandatory for all international passengers arriving in India to fill an Air Suvidha Self Reporting Form. The link to the form:

The government requires passengers to undergo Institutional quarantine followed by home quarantine, but if they have taken the Covid test as per RT-PCR then they are exempted from Institutional quarantine. Passengers can file an exemption request form if they have already done Covid testing at

Delhi airport also provides the option of Covid testing in Delhi airport. You can find more details here

As per the airport’s website “RT-PCR tests conducted within 96 hours before undertaking the journey will be allowed till 13th November 2020. Post this date, passengers will need to submit reports for RT-PCR tests conducted within 72 hours before undertaking the journey”.

I took the test at Yale’s facility on 02nd November and uploaded the exemption form with the test result on the 03rd evening. Within a few hours, I received a confirmation email that my application was approved. I took a screenshot of the email before departing to have proof.

Apart from my luggage, I made a separate corona kit. The kit had a hand sanitizer, a box of surgical masks, a set of 5 face shields, a sanitary wipes box, and a bottle of water.

Travel from New Haven to JFK

I took 06:20 am metro north from Union Station to Grand Central (non-peak fare is $17) and from there hopped into a bus on 42nd Street to get dropped at 08th Avenue. Walked for a few minutes to reach 34th Street–Penn Station and took the E subway to Sutphin Boulevard Station. The fare is USD 2.75. From there I took the AirTrain to airport terminal 4. AirTrain connects all passenger terminals at JFK. The cost is USD 7.75, and the payment is made only by MetroCard. The terminals for the ticket are easy to spot.

Travel from JFK to Delhi

On reaching the airport, they asked me to fill a “Vande Mataram” undertaking form. The Air India staff checked my temperature and allowed me to proceed to the Check-in counter. I boarded the plane and sanitized my seat and surrounding space before settling. Pre-packaged snacks along with a water bottle were placed next to my seat. Luckily, the middle seat was vacant. I had my mask and face shield on all the time unless drinking water/ eating food. The crew provided Biryani and another set of packaged food after around 9–10 hours. On reaching Delhi, the local officials separated the arriving passengers into two queues. One with an exemption form and another without it. I showed the screenshot of the approval email and they stamped home quarantine on my hand.

Travel from Delhi to Bagdogra

I stepped out of the airport to deliver an Apple watch package. Someone had come outside the airport to collect it. As I had my next flight to Bagdogra on the morning of 06th, the local airport security didn’t let me in again on 05th. I stayed at a nearby hotel and attended a class from there. Took an early morning flight to reach my hometown.

While I’m practicing home quarantine and taking Covid precautions, I am surprised by the ignorance of local people and administration. Markets are open in full capacity with no respect for social distancing. People here are behaving as nothing has happened, and it’s business-as-usual.


Qatar cancellation options:

Hold on to your ticket: Keep your ticket open and use it when you are ready with our extended 2 years ticket validity, this applies for fully unutilized tickets. A maximum validity of twelve months applies for partially used tickets. For any changes on or after 01 January 2021 ticket fare rules shall apply.

Exchange for future travel: You can exchange your ticket for a future travel voucher with 10% additional value. Vouchers are now valid for two years from the date of voucher issuance. We will issue the travel voucher within 48 hours.

Swap for Qmiles: Swap your ticket for Qmiles and redeem them towards reward flights, extra baggage or cabin upgrades when the time is right. For every 1 USD, you will earn 80 Qmiles that are valid for at least three years.

Refund your ticket: We will refund your ticket to the original form of payment. It may take up to 30 days to process your refund request.”



Abhishek Agarwal

Expert in data analytics & AI, driving global-scale platform development. Amazon Sr. Product Manager. Yale MBA. AI/ML leader.