What is it with both airlines and all kinds of media outlets promoting “quarantine-free” flights in a way that’s unhelpful at best, and downright deceiving at worst?
I’m writing about this now because I’m currently sitting outside at a coffee shop, and I overheard a lady telling her friend how she’s going to Italy next month. “I thought Europe was closed?” “No, we’re going on one of the quarantine-free flights.”
That’s not how that works!!
Who is allowed to enter Italy?
I want to talk specifically about Italy, because this seems to be the most common “quarantine-free” flight concept we hear about.
Italy is part of the European Union, and is currently closed to most foreigners from outside the European Union, unless they’re traveling for essential reasons. Those allowed to enter Italy, which includes select essential travelers, European Union residents, and a select group of other travelers, need to get tested both before departure and upon arrival, or else they’ll need to quarantine upon arrival.
In other words, currently Americans traveling for non-essential reasons aren’t allowed to enter Italy, just as they aren’t 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 are helping with testing before and after the flight.
This doesn’t change the fact that a vast majority of Americans aren’t allowed to take these flights. But of course you’d never know that based on how airlines market these flights.
Let me give an example. American Airlines recently put out a press release about how the carrier is offering “quarantine-free” travel to Italy. This is all that it says about this offering in the press release:
Customers traveling on flights marketed and operated by American Airlines from New York City (JFK) to Milan (MXP) and from JFK to Rome (FCO) will enjoy quarantine-free travel when service returns in the coming days and weeks. Prior to travel, customers will need to provide proof of the required negative COVID-19 test. Based on current Italian rules, upon arrival in Milan or Rome and after taking a second test at the airport producing a negative result, travelers will be able to forgo the local post-travel quarantine requirements, enabling customers to maximize their time while in Italy.
Based on this, would one not reasonably interpret this to mean that someone taking this flight and following these rules, would, you know, be allowed to enter Italy? But nope, there’s no mention of that.
Delta’s press release isn’t much better. The airline waits until the eighth paragraph of a press release about this offering to mention that this is only available to those who are allowed to enter Italy.
As you’d expect, all kinds of media outlets just regurgitate these press releases, with no mention of these restrictions, obviously because they don’t know any better. Take this Fox News article, for example, which states the following:
Soon, passengers who test negative for the virus will be able to travel from flights marketed and operated by American Airlines from New York City’s John F. Kennedy airport to Milan and Rome without having to quarantine, the airline announced Thursday.
Prior to travel, customers will still need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Upon arriving in Italy, passengers will have to test negative again. The double testing will effectively allow those to “forgo the local post-travel quarantine requirements, enabling customers to maximize their time while in Italy,” the carrier said.
C’mon, do better…
Of course it goes without saying that travelers are responsible for verifying entry requirements of the place they’re traveling to, but still, most people aren’t particularly good readers, and this stuff can be tough to figure out even for experienced travelers.
Airlines seem to intentionally leave out or hide the fact that most people aren’t eligible for these “quarantine-free” flights, and as a result all kinds of news sources (including many airline-focused blogs) cover this without mentioning that very important detail.
I’d be fascinated to know how many people have booked these “quarantine-free” flights thinking that they can take them, only to find out that’s not the case.
Unless you’re an essential traveler, you really don’t need to know about the “quarantine-free” flights that airlines are offering to Italy right now. They’re only for essential travelers, even if for whatever reason airlines seem to want to make people believe otherwise.
Do better, airlines, and do better, people writing about these “quarantine-free” flights without understanding that this isn’t useful to 99% of Americans.
Can anyone make sense of airlines’ bizarre way of advertising these quarantine-free flights? Are they doing this intentionally to generate ticket bookings among ineligible travelers, or is there something I’m missing?