Delta Air Lines plans to run a transatlantic Covid-19 testing scheme that will enable quarantine-free entry into Italy.

The initiative between the airline, its US base airport at Atlanta and Rome airport is awaiting Italian government approval.

The US carrier has also worked with the Georgia Department of Public Health to develop a blueprint for governments to reopen important international routes.

The Atlanta-Rome trial is due to start on December 19 and follows chief executive Ed Bastian suggesting London was “more complicated” for Covid free test flights.

The tests will exempt US passengers permitted to travel to Italy for essential reasons from quarantine on arrival, as well as European Union and Italian residents.

Passengers will need to test negative for Covid-19 through:

* A PCR test taken up to 72 hours before departure
* A rapid test administered at the airport in Atlanta before boarding
* A rapid test on arrival in Rome-Fiumicino
* A rapid test at Rome-Fiumicino before departure to the US

Customers also will be asked to provide information upon entry into the US to support CDC contact-tracing protocols.

Rome airport implemented a successful intra-Italy Covid-testing flight trial with Delta’s Italian codeshare partner Alitalia earlier in the year.

Delta executive vice president global sales Steve Sear said: “Carefully designed Covid-19 testing protocols are the best path for resuming international travel safely and without quarantine until vaccinations are widely in place.

“Safety is our core promise – it’s at the centre of this pioneering testing effort and it’s the foundation of our standards for cleanliness and hygiene to help customers feel confident when they fly Delta.

“The State of Georgia and the Italian government have demonstrated leadership in testing protocols and practices that can safely reopen international travel without quarantine requirements.”

Delta has engaged expert advisors from healthcare specialist Mayo Clinic to review and assess the customer-testing protocols needed for Delta to execute a Covid-tested flight programme.

Mayo Clinic chief value officer Henry Ting said: “Based on the modelling we have conducted, when testing protocols are combined with multiple layers of protection, including mask requirements, proper social distancing and environmental cleaning, we can predict that the risk of COVID-19 infection – on a flight that is 60% full – should be nearly one in a million.”