First transatlantic flight with testing replacing quarantine is here

Passengers flying on Delta Air Lines from Atlanta to Amsterdam have avoided quarantine in the Netherlands – by agreeing to tests in advance and on arrival.

The giant US airline is running “Covid-Tested” trial flights from its home hub to Schiphol airport up to 6 January 2021.

The Dutch government says travellers from the US – and almost all countries worldwide “should self-quarantine for 10 days even if you do not have any symptoms or if you have tested negative for Covid-19”. 

But this is avoided if passengers pay for a PCR test five days before departure, and undergo a free rapid antigen at gate E14 of Atlanta airport. 

On touchdown at Amsterdam, passengers who are ending their journeys in the Netherlands must go to a special zone for a PCR test. If a the result is negative, they can exit the airport and proceed wherever they wish, subject to prevailing Dutch laws.

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Everyone travelling on the affected flights must adhere to the test requirements. If pre-booked passengers do not wish to do so, they can rebook on other flights.

Coronavirus risk-reduction protocols, including wearing face masks, remain in force.

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While American Airlines, British Airways and United have all been operating flights with pre-tested passengers in a bid to demonstrate success of testing in lieu of quarantine, Delta is believed to be the first carrier to negotiate exemption from a country’s quarantine rules.

However, very few people are expected to qualify for the privilege due to strict rules on who can arrive in the Netherlands and in the US.

A presidential proclamation issued by Donald Trump in March banned almost all arrivals from Europe, meaning that few Dutch travellers will get to the US. Conversely, the Netherlands allows very few Americans to arrive. Exemptions are allowed mainly for essential reasons such as work and urgent compassionate trips.

A similar option will be available to travellers between Atlanta and Rome from 18 December.

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