ATLANTA — There’s news of another COVID-19 travel bubble – and this one’s an international route out of the U.S.
Delta Air Lines, the Aeroporti di Roma and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport have forged what they say is a first-of-its-kind trans-Atlantic COVID-19 testing program that will enable quarantine-free entry into Italy.
The partnership is in accordance with a decree expected to be issued soon by the government of Italy, says Delta Air Lines’ Steve Sear, President – International and Executive Vice President – Global Sales.
“Carefully designed COVID-19 testing protocols are the best path for resuming international travel safely and without quarantine until vaccinations are widely in place,” said Sear. “Safety is our core promise – it’s at the centre 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.”
Sear adds that Delta has engaged expert advisors from Mayo Clinic to review and assess the customer-testing protocols needed for Delta to execute a COVID-tested flight program.
According to Mayo Clinic’s Chief Value Officer, Dr. Henry Ting, based on Mayo Clinic’s modelling, 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% full – should be nearly one in a million.”
Starting Dec. 19, Delta’s trial will test passengers and crew on newly relaunched flights from Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport to Rome-Fiumicino International Airport.
The tests will exempt from quarantine on arrival in Italy all U.S. citizens permitted to travel to Italy for essential reasons, such as for work, health and education, as well as all European Union and Italian citizens.
To fly on Delta’s COVID-tested flights between Atlanta and Rome, customers will need to test negative for COVID-19 through:
- A 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 U.S.
Delta says passengers will also be asked to provide information upon entry into the U.S. to support CDC contact-tracing protocols.
Aeroporti di Roma earlier this year implemented a successful intra-Italy COVID-tested flight trial with Delta’s Italian codeshare partner Alitalia.
Earlier this month Hong Kong and Singapore announced a travel bubble for flights between the two cities. Considered a major milestone for the global tourism industry, the Hong Kong-Singapore Air Travel Bubble is a bilateral, all-purpose and quarantine-free arrangement designed to pave the way for a safe resumption of international travel.
Scheduled to start Nov. 22, the Hong Kong – Singapore corridor was delayed at the last minute by an increase in COVID-19 cases. So far the delay is at least two weeks, or until caseloads get under control.
Other international travel bubbles either in the works or up and running are Thailand – China (possibly Jan. 2021) and the corridor between Australia and New Zealand. Travellers heading from Australia to New Zealand still have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, however for travellers going the opposite direction, from New Zealand to Australia, there’s no mandatory quarantine.