• The new flights will operate from  Atlanta to Rome
  • Apart from 3 rapid tests on both airports, travelers will take a PCR test 72 hours before the flight
  • This will be for people travelling for essential reasons like work

Delta Air Lines announced a partnership with Italian carrier Alitalia on Thursday to launch “quarantine free” flights between the U.S. and Italy, kickstarting the first such route between the U.S. and Europe since the pandemic.

These are select flights from Atlanta to Rome that would start next month. Passengers will not need to self-isolate after traveling on these flights, provided that they test negative for COVID-19 three times.

Passengers will need to undergo a gold-standard PCR test 72 hours before they board the flight. They will have to take three rapid tests at Atlanta airport before they board and three tests upon arrival in Italy.

There is hope that this program may be extended to neighboring airports in Europe. Marco Troncone, chief executive of Aeroporti di Roma, is quoted by Financial Times as saying, “It is hard to convey this message to governments and policymakers but I think we are close to a breakthrough. Quarantines don’t work, they are inefficient and hard to police.”

This is to comply with new immigration rules announced by Italy as a fresh wave of infections takes over Europe and the U.S. This is mainly for EU and American citizens who want to travel for essential reasons.

There is still a ban on flyers from Europe to come into the U.S., but there is talk in the White House that travel restrictions may soon be eased for EU and U.K. nationals, two people familiar with the matter told FT.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to stifle travel demand, struggling airlines are urging aviation regulators around the world to ease restrictions. As a result, many carriers have launched flights between the EU and America, but this is the first, which suspends quarantine for the travelers.

The collapse of business travel due to the pandemic has hit the airlines hard since business passengers are willing to pay higher prices for premium seats. Routes between the U.S. and Europe have been significant for carriers for the same reason. According to the report, the market between the U.S. and U.K. accounts to about $9 billion for airlines.

According to industry group Airlines for America, business travel accounted for 30% of the trips, but contributed more than half of U.S. airlines’ revenue.

The U.K. is also contemplating a corridor between London and New York mainly for business travelers, but it has proven to be difficult with the surging cases.

Delta Air Lines has avoided layoffs so far, but could begin furloughs next month if no agreement is reached with the pilots union
Delta Air Lines has avoided layoffs so far, but could begin furloughs next month if no agreement is reached with the pilots union AFP / Robyn Beck