On May 30, 2021, 300 Americans from New York City and Atlanta landed in Rome, and on June 9, France also welcomed visitors from the U.S. after more than a year. Cannes Film Festival’s organizers told VideoAge, “If you are fully vaccinated two weeks before the Marché du Film (with Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, or Johnson & Johnson) you just need a negative PCR test before your flight to Cannes. No quarantine.”
The Italians were so glad to see American tourists returning to Italy that Rome-Fiumicino Airport director Ivan Bassato was on hand to welcome them himself, and handed out Welcoming Kits. Unfortunately, no such exuberance was on display for the Americans arriving from New York who landed at Milan Malpensa Airport. In fact, the usually efficient (at least as compared to Rome-Fiumicino) Malpensa (designated as MXP) made the lives of the American passengers more difficult.
The reason, of course, is due to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-free flight, which, for this Delta flight, started at New York’s JFK airport.
In order to board the flight to Italy, Delta required a PCR test done 72 hours prior to departure. In addition, at its Terminal 4 (T4), another COVID test had to be taken on the spot. This second “rapid” test was conducted at the T4 arrivals area (pictured above, top left). There was even a special area to do the testing that had nine counters. The second test was apparently required because, for some connecting passengers, the first test would have been administered prior to the three-day window. But instead of testing just those connecting passengers, the powers that be at Delta decided to re-test all.
After finally reaching a counter following a 30-minute wait on a line, an attendant with an iPad took passengers’ documents, checked their temperatures, and did the test (center photo).
The process was fairly quick, and after a 15-minute wait in a nearby waiting room, the test results were delivered on a certificate (photo, bottom left).
In the same waiting room, passengers had to line up again for another Delta representative to check their paperwork, including IDs, PCR test results, rapid test results, and Italian Entry Forms (two-page forms with passengers’ info, including reason for traveling, passport and telephone numbers, and their addresses in Italy).
The flight to Milan was only half full, so the complete process took less than 90 minutes, but it surely will become more time-consuming when people start flying in droves again, considering that, according to United Airlines’ CEO Scott Kirby, “there is pent-up demand for business travel and leisure travel.”
The actual check-in took place at the T4 arrivals area where the connecting counters are located, and where all documents were once again checked and given back to passengers to keep.
After security (located at the usual departing area), passengers went directly to the gate, where just the boarding passes and passports were checked.
On board, no social distancing was observed, however facemasks were worn throughout the seven-hour flight. Alcohol was served, and passengers were given a choice of chicken or ravioli for dinner. Hand sanitizer dispensers were posted by the toilets.
Upon arrival in MXP, the first stop was passport control, which kept the Italian Entry Form (in Rome the first stop is the rapid test kiosk), then baggage claim, and after the customs exit, there was a wait on a long line (due to the many converging arriving passengers) to take a rapid test in a special area of the arrivals terminal (near Exit Door 4, as depicted in photo at right). The test upon arrival is in order to avoid having to quarantine. Receiving the results of the test, given in the form of a certificate, took only 15 minutes. However, the results aren’t checked and passengers could have easily taken the exit without bothering with it and saved themselves a two-hour wait (versus 30 minutes in Rome).
The return flight was much simpler. The process required a PCR test conducted 72 hours prior to departure in order to board, and filling out a New York State health form online that passengers are made aware of at the departing gate.
After landing in New York at JFK, the procedure was the usual: passport control, luggage retrieval, and exit.