Currently, US travelers can enter Italy without a mandatory fortnightly quarantine by taking a COVID-tested flight to Italy. It will take some research and time to fully understand the requirements, but I did all of this for you before my own flight. So is it worth taking a COVID-tested flight to Italy? Here’s everything you need to know about COVID-tested flights to Italy.
When Italy announced that it would open its borders to American tourists for leisure travel, I sat on my laptop and booked a flight to Rome. It has been over a year since I visited Italy and I took the opportunity to see the country without the tourist crowds. Yes, I had to take a few extra steps, but it was worth it for me!
What are the requirements to enter Italy now?
The big 3 airlines – United, American and Delta – offer COVID-tested flights (sometimes referred to as COVID-free flights) that allow US travelers to bypass the mandatory fortnightly quarantine. The airlines have reached an agreement with the airlines to implement and enforce the current regulations and requirements. You are flying from major cities in the USA to Milan or Rome.
It was confusing at first as COVID-tested flights (or quarantine-free flights) from the US only flew from major airline hubs in the US. The list of cities has been expanded to include several major cities in the United States to facilitate these connections.
I booked so early that it was unclear whether my American Airlines flight from Dallas would be marked as a COVID-tested flight. After a few calls to my airline, my flight was officially listed as a COVID tested flight.
So it’s not about booking the flight. The real question is whether the flight is marked as a COVID-tested flight and meets the requirements.
What are the requirements to fly on a COVID-tested flight?
Passengers must present a negative COVID test (PCR or antigen) 48 hours prior to boarding or 72 hours prior to arrival. The Antigen testing option offers affordable and less time consuming testing to many travelers.
The wording and the design vary depending on the airline. In the case of American Airlines, unlike a COVID test result, returning to the US requires the physical paper test to be presented upon check-in. United has an online portal for uploading results.
All passengers must complete the EU passenger locator. The form is in English and can be completed quickly before departure. I recommend filling this out a day in advance. The form generates the required QR code for entering the country.
To be tested before departure
Although I traveled a lot during the pandemic, the testing process prior to my trip was a challenge. I flew the day after Memorial Day, which had limitations in scheduling my test. I was limited to one antigen test because I left on the Tuesday after the holidays and many test centers were closed on Sunday.
Tests are generally free in my area, so I have two tests scheduled in case I didn’t get the results. The results of my rapid antigen test were submitted on Sunday and I received the results of my PCR test long after I arrived in Italy.
The day before departure
A passenger locator form is a standard form that is required by all travelers within the EU. It took me about ten minutes to fill it out. I immediately received the email confirmation and QR code. After I saved this email, took a screenshot of the QR code, and made a hard copy, I moved on to the other requirements.
While researching information on the Italian government website, I came across a link to book a COVID test upon arrival. Since this is absolutely necessary for entry, I took a closer look. Delt books and covers the cost of the test on arrival. American and United do not cover the testing costs. These airlines also do not cover the cost of EUR 20. Booking an appointment would save a huge amount of time when I arrived in Rome (FCO).
Here is what you need on hand
It is advisable to have paper copies of all the documents you need:
- A copy of a negative COVID test result
- American Airlines’ EU passenger locator typically uses the Verifly app for passengers returning home from the US to upload their negative COVID test results. Unfortunately, this is not the case for COVID-tested flights to Italy. Therefore, online check-in the day before with American Airlines is not possible. That meant planning more time at the airport on the morning of departure.
The day of my COVID tested flight to Italy
Angel Castellanos is taking a COVID-tested flight to Italy
I arrived for my flight much earlier than usual as there was no check-in the night before. Monitoring of documents is also mandatory. So even though I drove from Los Angeles to Dallas (then on to Rome), all documents in LA were checked at the check-in counter.
Aside from the check-in counter, the flight from LA to Dallas was a routine.
My last flight from Dallas to Rome (FCO) was a bit unusual. They announced at the gate that passengers should have our QR codes ready when boarding.
Due to the lack of training and confusion among flight staff, it is best to have proof of all documents ready. You are not responsible for your entry into Italy. You are!
During my COVID tested flight
During the flight, the crew did not mention the mandatory COVID test upon arrival. The flight was operated like any other international flight. I noticed the lack of arrival information on COVID-tested flight requirements on arrival. We cannot rely on the airlines, even though they hold the operational keys to the kingdom.
Arrival in Rome (FCO)
Passengers who have their Passenger Locator Form verified
Immediately after disembarking, all passengers made their way through the queue to the first gatekeepers. These airport officials searched for the QR code from the EU passenger search form. Passengers who did not have it ready, available or ready could not leave this area and were asked to step aside.
What else do I need to know about COVID-tested flights to Italy?
Regardless of the vaccination status, a retest on arrival is mandatory for all passengers. Performing rapid tests at entry points (Milan or Rome) is a new procedure for passengers arriving from the United States. The cost of the test is EUR 20, payable by credit card. I recommend booking an appointment for this test to save time. Pre-booking helped me get straight to the test interview section. Those who had not booked a test had to wait in a long line and fill out another form.
You can book an appointment here for visitors to Rome.
What to do on arrival in Rome (FCO)
I was asked some basic questions while sitting in front of a test officer behind a plexiglass booth. After a short 5 minute interview and signing some documents, I followed the marked signs to the test room.
As soon as I entered the test room at FCO, I was directed to a numbered booth and given a number. While COVID smears are never comfortable, the test itself wasn’t uncomfortable. My passport was requested while waiting for the results of my test. Giving my passport always makes me nervous.
Tested in Rome (FCO)
The COVID test room for passengers on COVID-tested flights
The Covid test room is spacious and offers plenty of space for social distance. The COVID administrators, military and airport officials outnumbered passengers that early morning. The nervous ten-minute wait for my results was finally over.
It felt good to have my passport and negative COVID test certificate in hand. This document was checked, stamped and collected before going through passport control. As a precaution, I quickly took a picture of it.
This entire process added 20-25 minutes to my arrival experience. After passport control I was officially in Italy and ready for my best Dolce Vita life.
Is it worth taking a COVID-tested flight to Italy?
While I don’t think there will be COVID-tested flights much longer, they are definitely worth the extra steps. When booking a flight for 2021 you have to assume that you may need to take these extra steps, and for me it was no different than getting a vaccine for a safari to a sub-Saharan country.
Here, too, from June 2021, it is currently the only way to enter Italy without mandatory quarantine. Coming back to the land of Michelangelo, incredible Unesco World Heritage Sites and one of the greatest cultures in the world, is well worth the short amount of time you spend on a COVID test or filling out a form. At the arrival airport, an additional 15-20 minutes for another COVID test is painless.