What about both airlines and all kinds of media promoting “quarantine-free” flights in ways that are unhelpful at best and downright misleading at worst?
I’m writing about it now because I’m sitting outside in a cafe and overheard a lady tell her friend about going to Italy next month. “I thought Europe was closed?” “No, we’re going to do one of the quarantine-free flights.”
That’s not how it works !!
Who can enter Italy?
I want to speak specifically about Italy as this appears to be the most common “quarantine free” flight concept that we hear about.
Italy is part of the European Union and is currently closed to most foreigners outside the European Union unless they are traveling for essential reasons. Those allowed to enter Italy, which includes selected key travelers, European Union residents and a select group of other travelers, must be tested both before departure and on arrival. Otherwise, they must be quarantined upon arrival.
In other words, for now, Americans who are not traveling for non-essential reasons are not allowed to enter Italy, just as they are not allowed to enter the entire European Union.
And that brings us to “quarantine-free” flights.
What are “Quarantine Free” Flights?
The concept is that airlines have created flights between the US and Italy that are “quarantine free” and that simply means that the airlines help with pre-flight and post-flight testing.
This doesn’t change the fact that a large majority of Americans are banned from taking these flights. But of course, given how airlines market these flights, you’d never know.
Let me give you an example. American Airlines recently published a press release on how the airline is offering “quarantine-free” travel to Italy. This is all that is said in the press release about this offer:
Customers traveling on flights marketed and operated by American Airlines from New York City (JFK) to Milan (MXP) and JFK to Rome (FCO) will be able to travel quarantine-free for the coming days and weeks when the service returns . Before traveling, customers must provide evidence of the required negative COVID-19 test. According to current Italian regulations, upon arrival in Milan or Rome and after a second test at the airport that gives a negative result, travelers can waive the local quarantine requirements after the trip, allowing customers to maximize their time in Italy.
Wouldn’t it be reasonable to interpret this to mean that someone who takes that flight and follows these rules is allowed to enter Italy? But no, that is not mentioned.
Delta’s press release isn’t much better. The airline is waiting until the eighth paragraph of a press release on this offer to mention that this is only available to those who are allowed to enter Italy.
As you’d expect, all types of media are vomiting up these press releases without mentioning these limitations, obviously because they don’t know any better. Take this Fox News article, for example, which states:
In the near future, passengers who tested negative for the virus on flights marketed and operated by American Airlines will be able to travel from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport to Milan and Rome without being quarantined, the airline said on Thursday with.
Before traveling, customers still have to prove a negative COVID-19 test. Upon arrival in Italy, passengers must test negative again. The double tests effectively allow those “to forego local quarantine requirements after travel and allow customers to maximize their time in Italy,” the airline said.
Come on do it better …
Of course, travelers are responsible for checking the entry requirements of the place they’re going to, but even so, most people aren’t particularly good readers, and this stuff can be hard to figure out even for the most seasoned traveler.
The airlines seem to be deliberately omitting or hiding the fact that most people are not eligible for these “quarantine-free” flights. As a result, all kinds of news sources (including many blogs focusing on airlines) cover this without mentioning very important detail.
I would be intrigued to know how many people have booked these “quarantine-free” flights and believe they can take them only to find out they don’t.
Unless you’re an indispensable traveler, you really don’t need to know anything about the “quarantine-free” flights airlines are currently offering to Italy. They are only for important travelers, even if for some reason airlines want to trick people into believing otherwise.
Do better, airlines, and do better, people who write about these “quarantine-free” flights without understanding that it is not useful for 99% of Americans.
Can anyone understand the bizarre way the airlines promote these quarantine-free flights? Are they doing this on purpose to generate ticket bookings from ineligible travelers, or am I missing something?