On 11-9-23 in Brussels, Belgium (BRU), Etihad denied our boarding for flight EY58 to Abu Dhabi, UAE (AUH) (with only hand luggage), which connected to EY218 to Delhi, India (DEL) T3. From T3, we would proceed with AI213 to Kathmandu, Nepal (KTM). The ground personnel of Etihad in Brussels said, "You need an Indian transit visa for Delhi. You will also lose all your returning flights. You'll need to buy new tickets." Consequently, we left Brussels 5 hours later with two Emirates tickets that avoided India, costing €1640. Upon inquiring with Etihad over the phone, they stated, "Since you contacted us in a timely manner, you can retain all your return flights."

When we flew back from KTM-DEL-AUH-BRU three weeks later, this time with an Indian transit visa, we stayed in the T3 transit lounge. There was no passport or visa check, making the visa seem unnecessary. The Indian visa offices in both Kathmandu and Brussels confirmed to me via email that "if you only have hand luggage, you do not need a transit visa for Delhi." However, Etihad insisted, "You do need it. We are correct. Furthermore, your AI213 should have been printed on the same ticket, which is another reason for denying your boarding."

Etihad in UAE confirmed that they deny boarding to numerous passengers daily due to this reason. However, they do not inform about these visa restrictions in ticket purchase emails, boarding pass emails, on their website, etc. They stated, "We don't provide this information. Passengers must look up the relevant IATA rules themselves." It seems to us that Etihad is applying IATA rules meant for travelers with checked-in luggage even to those carrying only hand luggage.

For context, I traveled the Europe-Delhi-Kathmandu route twice in 2022, and over the past 30 years, I've taken this route more than 80 times without ever being denied boarding.


  1. Is this correct?
  2. Is this reasonable?
  3. Where can one find the visa rule that Etihad adheres to?
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    Is AUE = AUH? What passport do you have? Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 13:58
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    This is rather hard to follow. Maybe replace all the acronyms with names. Anyway, it is indeed the case that the passenger is solely responsible for inquiring about needed visa etc... The airlines do not have to inform you. And yes, it happens that you need a visa even if you are not going to pass through immigration. Indians encounter this all the time when transiting through Europe. Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 14:29
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    Was your AI flight on the same booking as your EY flight? Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 14:30
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    So the important question is: Was this all on one ticket? It so, than Etihad is indeed in the wrong, and you are due some compensation, Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 16:44
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    But if it wasn’t on one ticket then Etihad has the responsibility to ensure that the traveller meets the entry requirements at the end of the itinerary containing the Etihad flight, regardless of whether or not the traveller intends to self transfer. Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 17:02

2 Answers 2


The connecting AI flight was not booked with the EY flight

Then you are unfortunately out of luck here. Self-connection is a complicated issue and even IATA doesn't cover it particularly well.

Etihad sold you a flight from BRU to DEL, so they are required to check your entry credentials for India. They have every right to deny you boarding if you don't have these.

Now the fact that you had a same-day ticket from DEL to KTM without the need to leave the transit area happen to exempt you from a transit Visa requirement. However, that's a complicated set of rules depending on your passport, luggage needs, layover time, airport and terminal layout, arrival procedures, etc. which makes it difficult for the airline to fully verify.

Hence it's entirely in their discretion to let you board or not in this case. They do not HAVE to let you board but they can CHOOSE to, if they feel you can indeed make visa free transfer. You are not entitled to it.

Is this correct?

Yes. EY was not required to let you board. They could have chosen to, but they didn't.

Is this reasonable?

That's a complicated question. Self connection rules are extremely tricky and not well documented. Some airlines try to accommodate this to some extent, others just refuse it outright. It's reasonable from the airline's perspective: they have little incentive to protect a connection that they didn't get paid for and if they make a mistake (which is easy to make), they can get fined, sometimes heavily so. Why take the risk ?

To EY's credit, they did preserve your return flights, which technically they didn't have to do.

Where can one find the visa rule that Etihad adheres to?

The visa rules here are straights forward. You bought an EY ticket from BRU to DEL and you need proper documentation for that ticket (which you didn't have). Period.

Anything beyond that is not a "rule". The requirement can potentially be waived by the airline due to your self-connection, but it's in no way guaranteed and you can't rely on this unless you have written confirmation from the airline, that they will indeed allow it.

Lesson Learned Self connection without proper credentials for the connecting country is very risky, even if it's technically allowed.

  • 3
    Clarification: if Timatic explicitly stated that self connections are allowed without a visa, Etihad would indeed be obligated to let OP board or be on the hook for paying out compensation. However Timatic doesn't say such a thing so Etihad was right.
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 19:35
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    The Timatic excerpt in Doc's answer explicitly requires all flights on a single ticket for TWOV, which seems to technically prohibit self-connections.
    – TooTea
    Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 7:36
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    Also about "reasonable". Etihad is responsible on on your entry in India. If you had a fake ticket (or just asked reimbursement: it is difficult to them to check), and you remain in India, they must pay a huge fee (it is so in many other countries). This is the reason many airlines will not take risks. Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 7:39
  • I am a single-query newbie here and, although a Dutch editor and GUI developer, a bit intimidated by the non-intuitive site interface, not self-explanatory or allowing to thank contributors, except for with a mere click. Hence this PS for closing the matter, which has been sufficiently clarified to me by you all. Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 11:31
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    @arnoudvandeneerenbeemt In case you haven't seen it yet: What should I do when someone answers my question? Commented Oct 7, 2023 at 18:18

The Etihad website links to the IATA Travel Center website for visa requirements. This website uses the Timatic database for requirements, which is the same database that the airline staff themselves will use when determining if you need a visa or not.

You have not stated your nationality, but entering details for an Australian citizen, travelling from Belgium to Nepal with a stopover in India gives the following requirements for India :

Visa required.

TWOV (Transit Without Visa): Passengers transiting through Bangalore (BLR), Chennai (MAA), Delhi (DEL), Kolkata (CCU) or Mumbai (BOM) with a confirmed onward ticket for a flight to a third country within 24 hours. The connecting flight must be booked on the same ticket and the luggage must be checked to the final destination. They must stay in the international transit area of the airport and have documents required for the next destination.

Based on your description I'm presuming that you were travelling on 2 separate tickets, which makes you ineligible for Transit-without-Visa - even without check bags.

On your return trip you stated that "There was no passport or visa check", however there absolutely would have been a passport check, and likely also a visa check. Such checks are carried out electronically - when you checked-in for your flight from Kathmandu the airline would have sent the information to all countries you were passing through, as well as your destination country, and any visa requirements would have likely been checked at that time. Many countries use e-visas now days for most/all viasa, so there is little need to physically check visas in any form.

Unfortunately for you, it is always the responsibility of the passenger to confirm they meet the requirements for entering a country. Many airlines will attempt to assist you with this process - such as Etihad linking to the ITA Travel Center website - but at the end of the day it's your responsibility.

The fact you were allowed do such a connection previously isn't relevant. It's possible that the rules were changed since your last trip, or perhaps even just that India or the airlines have started enforcing rules that always existed but were not strictly enforced previously.

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    While OP has not specified their nationality, a wild guess based on their username would be Belgium or possibly the Netherlands, both of which yield the same TWOV rules for India that you quoted.
    – TooTea
    Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 7:31
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    I must say that I hate the airline policy of "we will enforce all visa requirements but no, we will not inform you about it". They obviously have the traveler's nationality and could easily provide the required information (which they clearly have because they check against it when you board). But they say "nah nah nah, we have it but don't give it to you, good luck navigating the various websites of three different governments!" I bet you they would behave more customer-friendly if they would have to pay for the replacement ticket unless they can prove they informed you. Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 9:11
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    To sum up the rant: High time for the EU to pass customer protection legislation to that effect. If they can force Apple to switch to USB-C they can force KLM to send you an email. Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 9:12
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    @Peter-ReinstateMonica I don't think it's that straightforward. They don't know the purpose of travel, they don't know the traveller's history or residency status all of which affect the need for a visa. Not to mention the rules could easily change before travel. Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 11:30
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    @RobinSalih Hm... I grudgingly admit that you have a point. They could still communicate the decision tree though which they use for denying boarding. And: If indeed the regulations change it is even more important to inform the customer of it, isn't it!? Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 11:33

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