The first "Covid-tested" flight arrived in Rome from New York on Wednesday, an initiative designed to open up air routes between Europe and the United States blocked by the pandemic.

Passengers had to show they had returned a negative virus test within 48 hours of getting on the Alitalia flight from John F. Kennedy airport, and were required to take another test on arrival at Rome's Fiumicino.

All 100 passengers on board came up negative, according to the AGI news agency, allowing them to avoid a 14-day quarantine required of other arrivals from the United States.

Among them was Chiara, an Italian living in the United States who is visiting her parents with her husband and seven-month-old son.

All 100 passengers on board came up negative, according to the AGI news agency, allowing them to avoid a 14-day quarantine required of other arrivals from the United States All 100 passengers on board came up negative, according to the AGI news agency, allowing them to avoid a 14-day quarantine required of other arrivals from the United States Photo: AFP / ANDREAS SOLARO

"It's been almost a year since we returned to Italy," she told AFP.

"In April our son was born and so far no one from our family has met him. That's why we are so thrilled."

Everyone on board still had to wear masks and replace them every four hours, according to airport authorities.

"This is an extraordinary experiment, because it rekindles hope for air travel, mobility and the economy even in the presence of coronavirus," said Nicola Zingaretti, head of the Lazio region that includes Rome.

The move follows the launch in September of so-called virus-free domestic flights between Rome and financial capital Milan.