Delta Air Lines has reached agreement with the Aeroporti di Roma, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the State of Georgia and the Italian government to launch a COVID-19 testing program that will enable quarantine-free entry into Italy.

Starting Dec. 19, U.S. citizens permitted to travel to Italy for essential reasons, such as for work or education, as well as all European Union and Italian citizens on Delta flights from Atlanta’s Hartsfield–Jackson International Airport to Rome-Fiumicino International Airport will be exempt from quarantine on arrival in Italy if they test negative for COVID-19 through:

  • A COVID Polymerase Chain Reaction (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 United States

Delta has not revealed the cost of the tests or who pays for them.

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport

In another effort to minimize the spread of SARS-CoV-2 through air travel, on December 15, Delta will ask customers flying on Delta to the U.S. from any international location to voluntarily provide information that will aid contact tracing and public health follow-up efforts such as full name, U.S. address, email address, and numbers for primary and secondary phone numbers. Providing this contact information is mandatory for passengers flying between Rome and Atlanta.

Currently, when there is a confirmed COVID-19 case on a flight, the CDC asks the airline for a passenger manifest to identify all passengers seated within two seats of the confirmed case. (Passengers often change seats on flights that aren’t full especially if they can get a row to lie down in; so I wonder if going by the passenger manifest will provide accurate information about potential exposures.) The CDC then attempts to identify which local health departments to contact for follow up.

Having the newly requested information readily available will help the CDC identify which local health departments to contact and substantially reduce the time it takes to notify passengers and their contacts who were potentially exposed.

Final Thoughts

Testing currently seems to be the best way to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus onboard aircraft and through international travel without requiring passengers to undergo a lengthy quarantine process at their destination. Hopefully, the procedures being pioneered by Delta and the Italian government will prove successful in that regard and can be duplicated in other locations.