Italy to offer ‘Covid-free’ flights with 30-minute testing

‘Saliva tests are coming in the future, making it as easy as going through the x-ray,’ says airport management CEO

Helen Coffey
Thursday 17 September 2020 10:42 BST
Rome Fiumicino is trialling rapid testing
Rome Fiumicino is trialling rapid testing

Italy is gearing up to offer “Covid-free” flights thanks to rapid testing.

The scheme makes use of 30-minute swab tests to ensure all travellers have tested negative for coronavirus before boarding their flight.

Initially being trialled at Rome’s Fiumicino airport on two daily Alitalia services to Milan, the initiative is the first in Europe to introduce rapid testing for departing passengers.

If successful, the pilot will be rolled out across other flights in an attempt to help boost the struggling aviation industry.

Fiumicino’s management company ADR is aiming to use 30-minute tests, administered free-of-charge to passengers, to improve customer confidence.

“On those flights you know the person next to you is negative,” Marco Troncone, ADR chief executive, told The Times.

“The rapid tests are now based on a nasal swab but saliva tests are coming in the future, making it as easy as going through the x-ray.”

Those who test positive will not be allowed to travel, but will undergo a traditional swab test to confirm the result and receive a voucher for a future flight.

They may also be required to quarantine in the city.

Passengers who test negative will be required to wear masks throughout the flight as a precaution. Different swab tests vary when it comes to accuracy, with false negatives ranging from 2 to 37 per cent.

The airport hopes to forge agreements with other popular destinations which are able to implement similar testing-on-departure schemes, with New York being the next key target.

Prior to the pandemic, there were 189 flights a week between Rome Fiumicino and New York; this number has plummeted to 12.

“People feel uncomfortable flying for seven hours due to coronavirus and anyone flying to Italy from the US must quarantine for 14 days, but we think that if the flight is 100 per cent Covid-free, there would be no need for quarantine,” said Troncone.

He added that the airport is also in talks with Emirates, Aeroflot and Lufthansa to introduce testing.

It comes as Rome’s Fiumicino Airport was given the first five star rating for Covid-19 safety procedures.

Skytrax, the air transport rating agency, praised Rome’s Fiumicino Airport for its effective signage and information systems, as well as its in-house Bio-Safety Team of 40 staff who facilitate social distancing and ensure compliance with face covering usage in high movement areas.

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