Delta Air Lines and transatlantic partner KLM are to trial ‘Covid-tested’ flights between Atlanta and Amsterdam next week.
A testing programme will allow eligible passengers to be exempt from quarantine upon arrival after receiving a negative PCR test result on landing in the Netherlands from December 15.
The new Covid-tested flights will run four times a week from Atlanta to Amsterdam, with Delta and KLM operating two frequencies each.
Only passengers with negative test results will be accepted on board.
The flights will initially run for three weeks and if successful, the airlines hope to extend the program to other markets.
Entry requirements for the Netherlands normally include ten days of quarantine.
However, by completing a negative PCR test five days before arrival in the Netherlands and self-isolating until departure, customers can choose to complete the quarantine ahead of their departing flight.
No quarantine will be required upon arrival once the traveller tests negative via a second PCR test at Schiphol airport.
The new protocol will be available to all citizens permitted to travel to the Netherlands for essential reasons, such as for certain specified work, health and education reasons
Those transiting via Amsterdam to other countries will still be required to follow entry requirements and any mandatory quarantine in place at their final destination.
Travellers will be able to choose the Covid-tested flights when they purchase tickets online or opt for one of the alternative Delta or KLM daily flights on the route that are not covered by the trial.
The airlines have worked with the Dutch government, Amsterdam Schiphol airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International airport to deliver a “comprehensive” testing scheme.
KLM president and chief executive Pieter Elbers said: “This is a very important and great step forward. Until an approved working vaccine is available worldwide, this testing program represents the first step towards the international travel industry’s recovery.
“All stakeholders need to work together on a systematic approach to rapid testing and build these tests into the passenger experience, so quarantine measures can be lifted as quickly as possible.
“This is fundamental to restore passengers’ and governments’ confidence in air travel.”
Delta president international and global sales executive vice president Steve Sear added: “Creating Covid-free travel corridors, in addition to the multiple layers of safety and hygiene measures we have implemented will provide customers – and authorities – greater confidence that they can stay healthy when flying.
“Delta has worked with our partners and health authorities to reopen the skies safely and resume international air travel until a vaccine is in place removing the requirement of quarantine.”
Royal Schiphol Group chief executive Dick Benschop said: “This is an important step to validate that test regimes make safe and responsible air travel possible while reducing the need for travel bans and long quarantine measures.”