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Everything you need to know about transiting through European airports during the pandemic

June 16, 2021
11 min read
Travelers Returning To The UK From Red List Countries Required To Self Isolate
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Editor's Note

This story has been updated with new information.

Since 2020, travel has changed. That shouldn't be news to the frequent traveler. Journeys that, at one point, didn't require documentation or pre-departure preparation other than making sure you had a passport now require intense research. Will you need a COVID-19 test, and if so, what kind? Will you need proof of where you're undergoing quarantine? Oh, and what about proof of vaccination?

Breaking News: EU agrees to lift restrictions on American travelers

But, even more so than in a pre-pandemic world, transiting through airports in order to get to a final destination has become more complicated. If you're traveling to a destination via a stop, will you be able to transit through the airport without any additional documentation?

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Today, we're looking at some of the airports across Europe that Americans may transit through on to a final destination. Paris Charles de Gaulle, for example, if you're flying with Air France or its partners, or London Heathrow if you're flying with British Airways or its partners onto a final destination.

Related: Ready to travel? These are the 11 things you need to do before leaving home

Ultimately — like all things with COVID-19 — the information and rules change often. So if you've got plans to travel to Europe this summer, it'll be worth double-checking transit requirements closer to your date of travel to make sure nothing has changed.

(Photo by Niels Wenstedt/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS)

Transit passengers: Allowed
COVID-19 test: Not required

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The Netherlands says that passengers can travel to a third country via Schiphol. Passengers transiting via AMS no longer need proof of a negative COVID-19 test in order to do so. According to the Netherlands government, if you start your journey in a high-risk country and change planes in the Netherlands, you do not need to show a negative PCR test result or rapid test result on arrival.

Related: Traveling soon? Here’s where you can quickly get a COVID-19 PCR test for travel

The government says that a transfer is when you change planes and continue your journey within a few hours, and in any case within one day without leaving the airport where your transfer.

KLM's website also reiterates that if you're traveling from a high-risk country and have a transfer in the Netherlands, you don't need a COVID-19 test result, but you are required to submit a quarantine declaration form.

You can find more information on the Netherlands' website.

Copenhagen Airport (CPH)

Transit passengers: Allowed
COVID-19 test: Required

According to Copenhagen Airport, passengers who transit via the airport are required to have proof of a negative COVD-19 PCR or antigen test. The test must have been taken no more than 48 hours prior to boarding a plane bound for Denmark. The requirement does not apply to children up to and including the age of 12.

Arriving passengers must also have a COVID-19 test performed.

There is an exception for passengers who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and who are traveling from an orange or yellow country — the U.S. is currently considered an orange country.

You can find more information on Copenhagen Aiport's website.

Dublin Airport (DUB)

Transit passengers: Unclear
COVID-19 test: Required

All passengers arriving in Ireland are required to have evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken no more than 72 hours prior to arrival. However, it remains unclear if Dublin Airport is allowing transit passengers to connect at a large scale.

Dublin Airport says that "If you arrive at Dublin Airport as a connecting passenger please contact the Irish Government's Border Management Unit (BMU) by email on to find out what specific entry requirements and restrictions apply to you."

You can find more information on Dublin Airport's website.

(Photo by Alex Kraus/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Frankfurt Airport (FRA)

Transit passengers: Allowed
COVID-19 test: Depends on final destination

For passengers who intend to transit through Frankfurt Airport on to a third-country destination, whether or not you must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test depends on your departure point and final destination. If you are traveling from a non-Schengen country (for example, the U.S.) to another non-Schengen country (for example, Russia), you will not need proof of vaccination, negative COVID-19 test or to quarantine.

However, if you are traveling to a Schengen country as your final destination (for example, Spain), you will need a negative COVID-19 test result or proof of vaccination or recovery.

The COVID-19 test must be taken no more than 48 hours before your arrival in Germany. It will be checked by your airline prior to scheduled departure. Children 6 years older and younger are exempt from the testing requirement. Eligible tests can be PCR, LAMP, TMA or antigen tests. Antibody tests are not accepted.

This also applies to passengers looking to transit through Munich Airport (MUC).

You can find more information on the German government's website.

Istanbul Airport (IST)

Transit passengers: Allowed
COVID-19 test: Not required

Istanbul Airport, the home of Turkish Airlines, allows transit passengers to travel through the airport without the need for a negative COVID-19 test result. As of Dec. 30, 2020, transiting passengers are exempt from the requirement that all passengers must have a negative COVID-19 PCR test result.

Transit passengers are also not required to submit a Turkey Entrance Form.

You can find more information on Istanbul Aiport's website.

Lisbon Airport (LIS)

Transit passengers: Allowed
COVID-19 test: Required

All passengers who travel to Lisbon are required to have a negative COVID-19 PCR test result — including transiting passengers. Regardless of if you're traveling from in or outside the EU to a destination in or outside the EU, you will be required to have a negative COVID-19 PCR result, carried out within 72 hours prior to departure.

The test must be carried out by a certified laboratory and contain your name, name of the lab, including its certification, reference that it's a PCR test, date the exam was collected and the negative test result. The test result must be presented at check-in or at boarding in digital format. SMS (texted results) will not be accepted.

You can find more information on Lisbon Airport's website.

(Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

London Heathrow Airport (LHR)

Transit passengers: Allowed
COVID-19 test: Required

All passengers traveling to the U.K. — including transiting passengers — are required to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test result. So even if you are planning to transit through London Heathrow (LHR) and not leave the airport, you are still required to have a negative test result in order to board your flight.

The test must be taken no earlier than three days before departing for England, and you must be able to show the result on a printed document or on an email or text on your phone. If you arrive in England without proof of a negative test, you could be fined £500 (about $700). Eligible tests can be a nucleic acid test, such as a PCR test, a LAMP test or an antigen test, such as from a lateral flow device.

You will also be required to submit a passenger locator form prior to your scheduled departure.

If you have a connecting flight that departs on the same day, you will be able to stay airside and will not need to pass through immigration or customs. There will be no quarantine required — including hotel quarantine — for transiting passengers who stay airside.

However, if you've got onward travel planned where the flights are booked on separate tickets or if you have a second flight on a different day, you will be required to pass through immigration. If you come from a "red list" country, you will be required to quarantine in a government-approved hotel for the time you are in the U.K. Non-red list passengers must quarantine at another location for the time they are in the U.K. At this time, the United States is categorized as an amber-list country.

You can find more information on Heathrow's website.

Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport (MAD)

Transit passengers: Allowed
COVID-19 test: Not required

Aena is the state-owned company that operates Madrid Airport (MAD) as well as Barcelona Airport (BCN) and more than 45 others around Spain. This advice applies to all Spanish airports with international connections.

According to the Ministerio de Sanidad, transiting passengers are not required to have a negative COVID-19 test result. So long as you don't leave the international zone of the airport, you don't need a negative test. If your transit does involve passing through border control, you must present the boarding pass or ticket for your next flight(s) to prove that your final destination is not within Spain. The total transit time must be less than 24 hours and you won't be able to leave the airport.

All other passengers coming from high-risk countries (including the United States) will be required to submit a negative Active Infection Diagnostic Test (AIDT), or PCR test, carried out within 72 hours prior to arrival. At this time, Americans are still not welcome to visit Spain for non-essential reasons.

You can find more information on Aena's website.

(Photo by Emeric Fohlen/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG)

Transit passengers: Allowed
COVID-19 test: Not required

Paris Aeroport, the group that runs CDG as well as Paris Orly (ORY) and Paris Le Bourget (LBG), says that all three airports are "open and welcome" to connecting passengers. Transiting passengers who are traveling to a third country are not required to present a COVID-19 test certificate at the airport.

However, if your final destination requires that you have a negative COVID-19 test result, you must do that before your travels. The group says that there are no PCR testing capabilities at CDG. Additionally, the airport advises that passengers may be denied boarding if they are prohibited from entering the destination country.

If you are connecting to a flight within France or another Schengen country, you will be subject to the French entry policy. France is now open to Americans as of June 9.

Related: Traveling to France as a vaccinated American citizen — my experience and what to expect

You can find more information on Charles de Gaulle's website.

Zurich Airport (ZRH)

Transit passengers: Allowed
COVID-19 test: Not required

According to Zurich Airport, transiting passengers do not need a negative COVID-19 PCR or rapid antigen test result. However, the airport does say that transiting passengers need to follow the rules of the airlines and destinations countries. In other words, if you need a COVID-19 test to enter your final destination, you will need one to transit.

However, if you are transiting on to a Schengen country, arrivals will be subject to Switzerland's entry requirements. At this time, Switzerland is not open to Americans unless they are a Swiss citizen.

You can find more information on Zurich Airport's website.

Bottom line

Ultimately, it's likely that these restrictions will change. As travel starts to open up, it's possible less restrictive policies could come into place. Likewise, if more variants of concern continue to pop up around Europe, it's possible airports could put more severe restrictions in place — including for transiting passengers.

Related: What to know about traveling to Europe this summer as an American

With Europe set to open to fully vaccinated American tourists this summer, it's likely that these major transit airports may be of use to travelers. Keep in mind, too, that you will have to pay close attention to the entry requirements at your final destination. Even if you're permitted to transit through one of the airports above, you have to have all of the necessary paperwork in order to get your vacation underway.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.