Scrapping the obligation for new arrivals to quarantine, Italy is offering Europe’s first ‘coronavirus-free’ flights to the US for passengers who have tested negative for Covid-19.
Rome’s Fiumicino airport said it had sealed a deal with Italian airline Alitalia and Delta Air Lines of US for the special flights between selected North American cities and the Italian capital from next month. Similar travel corridors will also be trialled between Rome and Munich and Frankfurt, it said.
The move follows the launch in September of virus-free domestic flights between Rome and its financial capital Milan.
“The new travel protocols, planned on an experimental basis on flights from US to Fiumicino… will be progressively offered to passengers as early as December,” Fiumicino said in a statement. “The experimental phase will aim to evaluate the effectiveness and functionality of the new travel mode, with the aim of making it more widely available in view of the summer 2021 season,” it added.
The airport said travellers arriving from New York’s JFK airport and those of Newark and Atlanta in the US would be able to skip quarantine by doing a test 48 hours before departure and another one on landing in Rome. Fiumicino offers rapid antigen tests for arriving passengers which detect the presence of proteins found in the virus and take 30 minutes to produce a result, it said.
The introduction of these flights does not necessarily mean the rules on travel to Italy from the US are set to be changed, however. Restrictions on non-essential travel to Italy from the US and many other non-EU countries currently remain in place.
Italy, hit hard by the pandemic, has been experimenting for weeks with Covid testing on flights between Rome and Milan, as well as to Germany. Getting buy-in from the US and other European countries is key to the airline industry’s push to replace the system of restrictions, including quarantines, that has deprived them of North Atlantic revenue.
The country currently imposes a 14-day quarantine on arriving travellers from the US. EU arrivals are broken into groups with varying restrictions based on infection levels in the country of departure.