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27 January 2021
Rome Fiumicino (FCO) Airport is the first Italian airport, and one of the first worldwide, to have implemented a protocol to operate COVID-19-tested flights. The protocol is based on a decree issued by the Ministry of Health (in agreement with the Ministry of Infrastructures and Transport and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation) which sets out "urgent measures for the trial of COVID-tested flights".
This initiative builds on the experience gained at a national level through the operation of 'COVID-19-free' flights between FCO and Milan Linate (LIN) Airport from September 2020. In particular, said ministerial measures – which will apply, subject to an extension, at least until 15 February 2021 – apply the 'clean corridors' provisions to international routes by extending the project to flights conducted between FCO and Frankfurt (FRA), Munich (MUC), Atlanta (ATL), New York (JFK) and Newark-Liberty (EWR) Airports.
On the basis of the first practical results, the COVID-19-tested procedure seems to be straightforward and effective. Pursuant to the ministerial decree, in order to be exempt from mandatory quarantine on arrival in Italy, passengers must show a certificate proving a negative molecular COVID-19 test (RT PCR) or an antigen rapid test, carried out within 48 hours before the flight. Otherwise, they must undergo an antigen rapid test at the departure airport directly before boarding.
Specific provisions apply to passengers of flights from ATL or JFK – namely, it is recommended that an additional molecular or antigen test be carried out by such passengers once they land at FCO. These measures were first implemented for the COVID-19-tested flight operated by Alitalia between JFK and FCO on 9 December 2020. Even stricter procedures were adopted for the first COVID-19-tested flight carried out by US carrier Delta Air Lines between ATL and FCO on 20 December 2020. Specifically, in order to minimise risk, passengers were required to take three tests – two before departure and one on board during the flight. Such protocol continues to be applied for COVID-19-tested flights currently operating every week between these airports.
In line with the common restrictions applied by the government to limit the spread of the pandemic, the subject flights are not aimed at encouraging tourism and the movement of people in general. Accordingly, passengers can travel only in compliance with the rules established by the government at a national level. This means that travel is still prohibited unless one or more specific reasons exist (ie, work requirements, absolute urgency, health reasons or returning to a home residence or domicile). Further, at the time of boarding, passengers must provide the carrier with a self-declaration confirming the reasons for their trip. In case of false statements, passengers face criminal penalties.
The ministerial decree addresses two additional key issues:
In case of a denied boarding, the airline must grant a ticket refund or issue a voucher (equal to the ticket price) to the affected passenger. With respect to the confidentiality implications of the protocol, airlines must process passengers' personal and sensitive data solely for the purpose of enabling the timely and safely operation of COVID-19-tested flights, to any applicable extent within the scope of the EU General Data Protection Regulation.
The protocol for COVID-19-tested flights is a step towards an efficient co-existence with the virus – not just because it provides a concrete answer to the overall fight against the pandemic, but also because it may represent a model for many other operators, including those outside the air transport field.
For further information on this topic please contact Laura Pierallini or Francesco Grassetti at Studio Legale Pierallini e Associati by telephone (+39 06 88 41 713) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Studio Legale Pierallini e Associati website can be accessed at www.studiopierallini.it.
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