If you’re dreaming of a summer Italian vacation, you might just be in luck.
In an effort to jumpstart safe international travel, Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines has just launched two transatlantic flights that allow passengers to bypass quarantine procedures upon arrival. The two flights, both departing from Atlanta, will head to Rome and Amsterdam. The airline’s first COVID-tested flight to Amsterdam departed last night, while service to Rome begins this Saturday, Dec. 19.
Passengers will undergo three tests to be exempt from quarantine. They must test negative 3-5 days before departure, again at the airport in Atlanta, and finally, upon arrival in Europe.
“At Delta, our objective has been to take leadership here, and innovate in terms of what we can do with testing and with government partners to ensure we can carry people safely,” explained Perry Cantarutti, senior vice president — alliances and international for Delta, on a call. “We don’t want to test for the sake of testing. There has to be a payoff for the customer. Being able to offer quarantine-free arrival is a really valuable and compelling proposition.”
Delta declined to say how much it’s invested in the program, but the airline’s worked closely with local governments on the initiative, including partnering with DispatchHealth to create a gate-side testing facility in the international concourse at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, where travelers on the flights will receive test results prior to boarding, in as little as 15 minutes. Except for the pre-departure PCR test, costs are included in the ticket price, and the flights are clearly marked during booking on Delta.com.
At present, these flights are only open to essential travelers—either foreign nationals returning home, business travelers, or those traveling for medical care or education, but the airline is confident that the program’s success will open more borders, as well as the possibility of leisure travel in the near future.
“The arrival of a vaccine is fantastic news, but it will take time for it to become widely available around the world,” said Cantarutti. “It’s for this reason we have worked tirelessly with the authorities and our partners to create a blueprint for travel corridors that will enable air travel to safely resume.”
The travel corridor is part of many safety and cleanliness measures Delta has implemented in 2020, including its comprehensive Delta CareStandard, rigorously enforcing mask-wearing, and keeping middle seats open through March 2021.
“After 9/11, the industry had to adjust and implement new security procedures,” Cantarutti said. “In COVID, we’re also being challenged to come up with new procedures and a process. I certainly don’t think this is the new norm, but I do think it is a tool to help us get people and the world moving again.”