Delta Will Launch Quarantine-Free Flights Between Atlanta and Italy

Airlines are looking for creative ways to stay above water but I’m not quite sure if this is the correct way to go about it…

DELTA WILL LAUNCH “COVID FREE” FLIGHTS

This morning, Delta announced an agreement between Delta Air Lines, the Aeroporti di Roma and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport that will enable quarantine-free entry into Italy through a trans-Atlantic COVID-19 testing program.

Delta International and Executive Vice President of Global Sales, Steve Sear said the following:

Carefully designed COVID-19 testing protocols are the best path for resuming international travel safely and without quarantine until vaccinations are widely in place.

Delta has consulted with experts from the Mayo Clinic and the Georgia Department of Public Health to develop the first-of-its-kind trans-Atlantic program and establish a blueprint for other airlines and country governments.

SO HOW DOES IT WORK?

Delta will relaunch flights between Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and Rome-Fiumicino International Airport (FCO) starting 19 December, while testing customers and crew.

But to fly on Delta’s COVID-tested flights between Atlanta and Rome, the procedure is as follows:

  • Passengers will need to provide a COVID Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test taken up to 72 hours before departure
  • Passengers will take a rapid test at the airport in Atlanta before boarding (or vice versa and take a rapid test at Rome-Fiumicino before departure to the United States)
  • Passengers will take a rapid test on arrival in Rome-Fiumicino

Given the protocol and sheer number of tests, it will exempt passengers from quarantine on arrival.

It’s worth noting only U.S. citizens traveling to Italy for essential reasons (e.g. work, health and education) and European Union and Italian citizens are permitted to travel to Italy at the moment.

MY THOUGHTS

I find it interesting that Delta teamed up with the Mayo Clinic and the Georgia Department of Public Health but did not partner with the CDC who’s headquarters are less than a 20-minute drive from Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL).

Interestingly, when visiting the CDC FAQ COVID-19 website, it explicitly says “based on existing literature, the incubation period (the time from exposure to development of symptoms) of SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses (e.g. MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV) ranges from 2–14 days.”

In other words, testing within this time period (2-14 days) is not the answer. For example, a passenger could be exposed to COVID-19 the day before taking the PCR test. Recognizing the incubation period could be up to 14 days, the passenger may still test negative for the PCR test, continue to test negative at the airport in Atlanta before boarding, and continue to test negative on arrival in Rome-Fiumicino, while actually being infected by the virus, so how is this flight coronavirus free?

It’s also worth noting that neither Italy nor the US have done an exceptional job containing the virus. In fact, nearly 10,000 people have died of the coronavirus in Italy this month — a per capita rate more than double that of the United States.

FINAL STAMP

Regardless, Delta will relaunch flights between Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and Rome-Fiumicino International Airport (FCO) starting 19 December, testing customers and crew before departure and upon arrival.

It will be interesting to see if this serves at the blueprint for other airlines and establishes the first “travel bubble.”

What do you think about this development?

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