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United is adding more flights to Italy, hoping to salvage American summer vacations

May 17, 2021
4 min read
United is adding more flights to Italy, hoping to salvage American summer vacations
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Transatlantic flights between the U.S. and Europe have long been bread-and-butter routes for major global airlines. The COVID-19 pandemic has effectively eliminated that much-needed revenue for 2020 and the first half of 2021, but airlines are hoping to salvage at least part of this year, thanks to a sudden EU move to reopen borders.

International travel reached a major milestone this week, with Italy reopening to tourists arriving on special "COVID-tested" flights — Delta was the first to announce a deal with the Italian government, followed shortly by American and now United. Most eligible flights depart from the New York City area, but travelers can connect from destinations around the U.S.

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On these special flights, passengers are required to present a negative PCR or rapid antigen result from a test taken at most 48 hours before departure. If they also test negative upon arrival, they'll be able to skip Italy's otherwise-mandatory quarantine.

(Screenshot courtesy of United)

Travelers can either get a test at Newark Airport (EWR) or before they arrive. XpresCheck is offering tests at Newark for $200 per person, with results provided within 30 minutes. The company is operating two locations at EWR, including on Level 1 of Terminal C and Level 3 (near Door 1) in Terminal B. Travelers must register for their test in advance at this link.

An antigen test will also be performed upon arriving in the airport in Italy — Milan passengers can register for their test here, while anyone arriving in Rome will register at this link.

Related: How to book a COVID-tested flight to Italy from 51,000 miles round-trip

As of this writing, United is offering four weekly flights between Newark and Milan (MXP), along with three weekly flights between Newark (EWR) and Rome (FCO). With Italy's reopening, United will offer five weekly flights on both routes beginning June 1, before moving to daily service on both routes beginning on July 1, through the end of the schedule in April 2022.

Fares to both destinations are currently priced starting around $600 round-trip for economy or $2,650 for business class. Round-trip MileagePlus awards start at 60,000 miles for economy and 120,000 miles for business class, with scattered saver availability throughout the summer.

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(Screenshot courtesy of United)

As of now, seat maps for both routes show United's older business class, with a 2-2-2 arrangement on the 787-9 Dreamliner to Milan and a 2-1-2 configuration on the Boeing 767-300ER to Rome, however many of the airline's planes have already been retrofitted with the new Polaris, so there's a good chance business-class flyers will land United's latest lie-flat seats.

(Screenshot courtesy of United)

The airline's Polaris Lounges remain shuttered, but hopefully they'll reopen soon. Despite the inconsistent product, I wouldn't hesitate to hop on one of these flights if you're vaccinated and looking to visit Italy.

While many U.S. travelers have already locked in trips to domestic and regional destinations, including national parks and Hawaiian islands, hopefully this sudden Europe reopening came soon enough for tourists to hop across the pond, as well.

That said, it may be best to wait to complete your COVID-19 vaccination, first, even though it isn't a requirement for entry — if you test positive upon arrival, you'll be forced into a mandatory quarantine, and won't be able to return to the U.S. until that process is complete. Not to mention that it's certainly best to avoid getting sick abroad.

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.

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    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

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  • Annual Fee

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
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Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.