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Tuesday 22 June 2021

Letter from New York-Rome with a COVID-free flight: the report

New York-Rome with a COVID-free flight: the report

Author of the content

Di Sun Serafini

The absolutely necessary thing to bring to the airport when embarking on a COVID-free flight from New York City-JFK to Rome-Fiumicino is a… pen, and you'll soon understand why.

            Let's start with the documentation necessary to board the Alitalia flight. There are several forms that can be downloaded from the airline's website, or from that of its partner in code-share (in this case Delta, from which I bought the ticket), or from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from that of the Ministry of Health and the clinic. who carried out the necessary swab before leaving. Among the various forms to fill out there is also an “EU Digital Passenger Tracking Form”. Apart from the document to certify that the passenger is negative for COVID-19, all the others are useless because, once you reach the check-in area, completely different forms are given to be filled in.

            Before passengers reach the check-in counter at JFK Terminal 1 (T1), body temperatures are measured and COVID test negative certificates photocopied, copies that are retained (photo 1). An attendant also asks if passengers would prefer to use mobile phones to scan a QR code bar and fill out new forms digitally. Better to say no, because two new paper forms must still be completed on site: a form indicating the temperature and the seat assigned on the plane (to be delivered to the boarding gate agent), and another identical for the police. border of the arrival airport, Rome-Fiumicino (photo 2).

            Moving on to the traditional check-in process, passengers are ready for security checks, which consist of the usual three steps: the first for boarding pass control (which now includes a thermo scanner for temperatures, as shown in photo 3), the second for the control of passports and boarding passes and then for the scanning of baggage and passengers.

            Since the Alitalia lounge is still closed, some passengers (such as the writer who has a Delta Gold Frequent Flyer card) were able to use the Air France lounge (partner of both Alitalia and Delta), a rather spartan but comfortable room (photo 4). Along the two corridors of T1 there are numerous disinfectant gel dispensers (photo 5).

            Also along the corridor to get to boarding gate 10, there are many shops and bars open (photo 6). There was also a very long line of passengers who were about to board a China Airlines flight (one of the three Chinese airlines that fly from T1), in stark contrast to the Alitalia flight AZ603 to Rome, which had only 60 passengers in a A330 airplane (which can accommodate 256 people, photo 7).

            The Alitalia plane had arrived at the gate well in advance since, to be declared a COVID-free flight, the aircraft must be at JFK from the previous day to be disinfected. The plane, in fact, had arrived from Rome and had unloaded the passengers the day before. This process, although necessary, has reduced the number of flights to and from Rome to just three per week.

            Once on board, passengers must wear masks and not be seated close together. The plane did not have disinfectant gel dispensers, not even in the bathrooms, and the dinner menu has been the same since the beginning of the pandemic: ravioli, cheese, crackers, bottled water and no alcoholic beverages (photo 8). Tea and coffee are available in the galley area on board.

            The pen came in handy again on disembarkation as all passengers are channeled to a swab area, but two more documents need to be filled out before reaching the seat (photo 9). Passengers are again asked to use mobile phones to download the new forms. Those who did, however, were required to fill in the paper ones as well. With the completed forms in hand, passengers are then directed first to a kiosk where the forms are inspected and where they pay 20 euros for the swab, then to a second kiosk where the forms are again inspected and passports checked, and finally to a third kiosk where the swabs are performed (photo 10). After a wait of about 15 minutes, the forms certifying the negative outcome and the exemption from quarantine are taken, with these we go to the border control (where the agents collect the forms filled in at JFK), and then we you can go to the baggage claim and finally to the exit. At the arrival terminal, T3 of Fiumicino, a bar is open for those wishing to take a cappuccino, an orange juice and a croissant at a cost of 5,90 euros.

With the negative swab before boarding and after disembarking, quarantine is not required.

The photo sequences for each row go from left to right. The next report will come after the return flight, this time with Delta from Milan Malpensa to JFK.

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