By Dom Serafini

Since April 2020, I’ve flown to Italy five times. That’s a total of 10 round-trip flights and 10 different COVID-free protocols over a 14-month period.

In July, for Italy-bound destinations only, the check-in area for Delta flights to both Rome (FCO) and Milan (MXP) is still at the arrivals area of Terminal 4 (T4) of JFK airport in New York City. It was also there in June, but what’s changed is that this month, fully vaccinated passengers are no longer required to take a rapid COVID test on the spot before boarding, like they had to just a month ago.

The first stop for passengers is still a pre-check zone to control COVID documentation (as seen in Photo 1, all photos are clockwise). There, would-be passengers must either present a CDC card (the equivalent of the E.U.’s “Green Pass”) to attest vaccination, or a negative COVID test result. They must also present an E.U. Digital Passenger Locator Form (DPL), which will allow European authorities to quickly locate them in case of infection. They then head to a check-in counter with five attendants (Photo 2). Priority service (called Sky by Delta) for international flights is not available even though it’s indicated on the desks’ signs. The whole process — even with 30 people in front of me — took just 20 minutes. Next up was the security check, and then it was on to the boarding gate through a T4 terminal that was as crowded as in pre-pandemic times. (Photo 3).

Once passengers reach the gate, temperatures are taken (Photo 4), and, for those who arrived via connecting flights, there is additional checking of documentation. All passengers — regardless of whether they took connecting flights or not — have to show their E.U. Digital Passenger Location Forms again. Before boarding, they must show their boarding passes, each of which has to have two stamps: one for the temperature check and one for the E.U. DPL check.

The plane, an A330, had 257 passengers on board (a record high for a Tuesday flight since the pandemic began). Social distancing wasn’t required as the plane was full, but the wearing of facemasks was enforced.

During the flight, the aircraft wasn’t kept all that clean and on-board service wasn’t all that efficient, but that might have been due to the fact that the aircraft was fully booked.

Fewer travelers spent time at the Delta lounge than in pre-pandemic times, and the food selection has been reduced (Photo 5).

Upon arrival at FCO, all passengers had to do was go through passport control after a final check of their E.U. DPL forms.

A note of warning. Upon final arrival (Photo 6), passengers should not exit the airport to the outside unless they don’t intend to come back inside because authorities will not allow re-entry without showing a same-day departure ticket. If one needs to wait at the airport for a couple of hours, it would be better to stay in and take the elevator to the only major restaurant, which is located on the 2nd floor, and relax with a decent (but not great for Italian standards) meal.

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