Delta, KLM team up to offer COVID- and quarantine-free flights to Amsterdam

Dec 4, 2020

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Until there’s a readily available vaccine, airlines have been hard at work at opening COVID-free travel corridors.

The latest example comes Friday morning from Delta and KLM. The carriers announced that they’re working together to trial a three-week COVID-tested flight schedule to Amsterdam.

The joint-venture partners will begin the trial on Dec. 15. It will be offered on four out of the 26 combined weekly Atlanta-Amsterdam flights operated by the carriers, with two per week on each airline. There will be three tests required during a passenger’s overall journey. If a passenger tests negative on all three, then the 10-day quarantine requirement upon arrival will be waived.

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Customers on the COVID-tested flight will be required to follow a strict testing regime:

  • A PCR test five days before arrival in the Netherlands
  • Self-isolation period until departure
  • Rapid antigen test prior to boarding
  • A PCR test required upon arrival at Schiphol Airport

No quarantine will be required once the third test comes back negative, though it’s worth noting travel to the Netherlands remains restricted (more on that below).

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

In announcing the news, KLM CEO Pieter Elbers said that “until an approved working vaccine is available worldwide, this testing program represents the first step towards the international travel industry’s recovery.”

Should the three-week trial be successful, the carriers hope to extend the program to other markets for a longer duration.

The four flights covered in the pilot program represent a small portion of the carriers’ overall schedule on the route.

Cirium schedules show that there are between three and four daily flights between Atlanta and Amsterdam, flown on either Delta or KLM aircraft, with a total of 71 flights during the three-week trial. Only 12 of them will be operated under the COVID-tested trial — the rest will be subject to the standard ten-day quarantine upon arrival.

Furthermore, this plan doesn’t necessarily open up the Netherlands to tourists. For now, this new protocol is limited to citizens who are permitted to travel for essential reasons, such as certain specified work, health and education reasons. This also doesn’t apply to those transiting the airport.

The goal, of course, is to demonstrate that a strict testing regime significantly reduces the spread of the virus, which should hopefully help convince health authorities to consider reopening borders.

Friday’s news follows a similar announcement from Delta just one week ago. The Atlanta-based carrier is piloting COVID- and quarantine-free flights to Italy, beginning on Dec. 19.

Like the Amsterdam trial, those traveling from Atlanta to Rome will be required to undergo multiple pre- and post-travel tests to waive the mandatory quarantine upon arrival.

On Thursday, Delta announced that it’s launching the industry’s first contact tracing program for inbound international flights to the U.S. Flyers will be asked to submit personal contact information to health authorities to better track the spread of the coronavirus.

Related: Oneworld carriers American, British Airways to trial testing regime for US-UK flights

United was the first of the U.S. carriers to offer COVID-tested flights. The Chicago-based carrier flew its first flight to London on Nov. 16, with a trial that runs through Dec. 11.

Featured photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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