Quarantine-free travel between the US and Europe has moved a step closer with the announcement that Delta Airlines has begun a COVID-19 testing program on its flights between Atlanta and Rome.
In a press release on November 26 the US airline explained that it had developed a rigorous COVID-19 testing regime, with assistance from the Mayo Clinic, as well as the state government of Georgia and the Italian government, which would allow travelers to fly between Atlanta and Rome without the need to quarantine.
Steve Sear, Delta President – International and Executive Vice President – Global Sales, said in a statement that “Carefully designed COVID-19 testing protocols are the best path for resuming international travel safely and without quarantine until vaccinations are widely in place”.
The Delta Airlines program will see travelers take four tests over the course of their trip, as follows:
- A COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test taken up to 72 hours before departure.
- A rapid test administered at the airport in Atlanta before boarding.
- A rapid test on arrival in Rome-Fiumicino.
- A rapid test at Rome-Fiumicino before departure to the United States.
These measures, combined with deep cleaning, social distancing, mask wearing and other safety protocols, will allow people to travel safely on these Delta Airlines flights between Atlanta and Rome and remove the need to quarantine on arrival, significantly reducing some of the barriers which are currently stopping people from traveling abroad.
The news offers hope that similar COVID-free air corridors may be opened up between the US and other countries, allowing travelers to resume overseas vacations without having to waste precious holiday time in self-isolation.
Airlines Using Testing Protocols To Win Back Customers
Airlines around the world have been developing creative solutions and workarounds in order to get people flying again safely amid the pandemic, with strict COVID-19 testing programs emerging as a key new feature of travel.
Several airlines have already announced pilot testing programs which they hope will enable quarantine-free travel between certain destinations. For example, British Airways, American Airlines and United Airlines have launched pre-flight testing options for travel between the US and the UK, in the hope of demonstrating that COVID-free travel corridors can be successfully established.
Meanwhile in Canada, WestJet has partnered with Calgary International Airport and the governments of Hawaii and Alberta to offer Canadian passengers COVID-19 tests in order to avoid a mandatory two-week self-isolation period on arrival in Hawaii. Calgary International Airport has also been piloting tests for new arrivals which reduce the quarantine period in Canada from 14 days to 48 hours.
The airlines hope that the success of these pilot programs will encourage governments around the world to establish routine COVID-19 testing for travelers and thereby allow many more people to return to overseas vacations.
This would be a huge relief to the aviation industry, which is desperate for customers to return to flying after many months of travel restrictions, as well as to travelers themselves, who have been forced to cancel and delay vacation plans this year.
Travel Bans Still In Place For Now
While the Delta Airlines testing program is undoubtedly good news for travelers, its use will be fairly limited due to the travel ban between the US and Europe that remains in place at present. The US is reportedly considering lifting restrictions on European arrivals, but there are currently no signs that the EU will reciprocate this move.
As a result, few travelers will be able to take advantage of the Delta Airlines offer for now. However, with more pilot programs like this one being rolled out across the world, the hope is that governments will see that COVID-free flight corridors can be established and travel restrictions lifted, allowing people to take overseas vacations once again.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories