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

May 17, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

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.

For more travel tips and news, sign up for our daily newsletter

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.

(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.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 100,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $2,000

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Our best offer ever! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 100,000 points are worth $1,250 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.