Delta Air Lines is hoping to launch flights to Italy where passengers can skip the quarantine from December.
The plan, an arrangement between the airline, Rome Fiumicino Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport, will use three stages of testing to enable customers to access Italy without having to isolate on arrival.
Both outbound and return flights between Rome and Atlanta would hope to be COVID-free with testing in place before departure and on return. On these flights, customers would have to test negative through COVID-19 by taking a PCR test up to 72 hours before departure and then a rapid test at the airport in Atlanta before boarding.
Upon arrival, to avoid having to quarantine, passengers and crew would then have to take another rapid test at Rome-Fiumicino airport. Then, to ensure a COVID-free return flight to Atlanta, a rapid test at the airport in Rome will need to be taken before departure.
Henry Ting, the Chief Value Officer at Mayo Clinic where Delta sought advice on the plan for a COVID-tested flight program, said in a Delta press release: “When testing protocols are combined with multiple layers of protection, including mask requirements, proper social distancing and environmental cleaning, we can predict that the risk of COVID-19 infection – on a flight that is 60 percent full – should be nearly one in a million.”
Steve Sear, Delta’s President of International and Executive Vice President of Global Sales, said in the press release, “Carefully designed COVID-19 testing protocols are the best path for resuming international travel safely and without quarantine until vaccinations are widely in place.”
“Safety is our core promise – it’s at the center of this pioneering testing effort and it’s the foundation of our standards for cleanliness and hygiene to help customers feel confident when they fly Delta,” added Sear.
Delta is hoping its plans will come into effect from December 19 following a decree expected to be issued by the Italian government.
Rome’s Fiumicino Airport is the only airport in the world to have obtained Skytrax’s five-star rating on its anti-COVID health protocols. Delta’s plan is not too dissimilar from the transatlantic testing trial launched by American Airlines, British Airways and oneworld. The oneworld plan is an optional medical-based testing trial on selected flights on both of the flag carriers from the United States to London Heathrow.
Free PCR tests are offered to eligible customers on one American flight from Dallas to Heathrow, and two British Airways flights; one from New York to London and the other from Los Angeles. The trial is expected to be rolled out to one further American flight from New York in the future.
Similar to the Delta plan, PCR tests are to be taken up to 72 hours before departure and a test is taken on arrival in London. However, customers do have to have a short period of quarantine as test results are determined. Passengers also receive a third test to be taken three days after arrival in the U.K. to confirm the other test results and affirm that one or two tests are sufficient for travel to safely restart.
The Chief Executive of oneworld, Rob Gurney, said in a British Airways press release, “We believe that COVID-19 testing will play an important role in safely restarting international travel. A comprehensive testing program will provide governments the confidence to reduce or waive quarantine requirements and safely re-open their economies to international visitors, while further assuring customers that their health and well-being are protected.”
Airlines in the U.K. and the U.S. have long been lobbying for testing procedures to come into place to safely restart international travel and re-open borders.
As it stands, American citizens are only able to enter the European Union if they are making an essential journey. Even those who are are still subject to quarantine. Similarly, Europeans wishing to enter the United States are only able to do so if they are traveling for a particular reason under the U.S. President’s travel proclamation.
However, skies may look clearer for those heading to the States soon as Reuters reports that White House Officials have supported rescinding the travel ban. The article says that the United States has held talks with several countries about the possibility of passenger testing programs between pairs of major cities.
One of these so-called travel corridors includes New York and London, where United has already launched a COVID-free flight thanks to rapid testing before departure. It is hoped the Star Alliance carrier’s four-week trial on testing can help the case to re-open transatlantic routes with testing. However, United’s arrangement does not exempt customers from the U.K.’s 14-day quarantine.