Alitalia Looks To Introduce COVID Free Domestic Flights

Italian flag carrier Alitalia has recently begun a month-long trial period of ‘COVID-tested’ flights between Rome and Milan. The program consists of two daily flights exclusively for passengers who have tested negative for coronavirus.

Alitalia will require passengers on certain flights between Rome and Milan to provide evidence of a negative coronavirus test. Photo: Getty Images

An initial trial period of one month

As revealed by Aeroporti di Roma last week, on September 16th Alitalia began offering two ‘COVID free’ flights a day between Rome Fiumicino and Milan Linate. These are exclusively for passengers who can provide evidence of a negative coronavirus test.

This is not a measure created in response to government legislation, but rather as a means of increasing customer confidence on the route. It is particularly aimed at passengers wary of flying in the current climate and is designed to reassure them of the safety of air travel, even in these challenging and uncertain times. The project is a joint initiative by Lazio Region Ordinance and Aeroporti di Roma and will run for a month with a view to being extended.

The airline will make use of a dedicated testing center in Fiumicino’s Terminal 3, where passengers can take a rapid antigen test using a nasal swab. This will reveal, within 30 minutes, whether they have tested positively or negatively. Alitalia’s hub in the Italian capital also houses Italy’s largest 24-hour drive-through testing facility and was recently certified by Skytrax as the only ‘COVID-19 5-Star Airport’ in the world.

Alitalia is offering to test passengers for the ‘COVID free’ flights on-site at Rome Fiumicino. Photo: Getty Images

Passengers on these flights (AZ2038 at 13:30 and AZ2092 at 17:30 from Rome, as well as AZ2039 at 10:00 and AZ2061 at 17:00 from Milan) also have the option of taking a test before arriving at the airport. In this case, they must provide evidence of a negative coronavirus test taken no more than 72 hours earlier in the form of either a molecular RT-PCR test or antigen swab, in order to board.

Should a passenger be denied boarding having tested positive, they are entitled to a full refund. Should a passenger not wish to be tested, Alitalia will allow them to transfer to another flight at no extra cost.

A busy and competitive domestic corridor

According to the Italian Civil Aviation Authority‘s ‘Dati di Traffico 2018’ report, the route to Milan Linate, with almost 1.1 million passengers annually, is the third busiest domestic corridor served by Rome Fiumicino. This places it behind only the Sicilian airports of Catania and Palermo, respectively.

Alitalia is the only airline serving this route, with seven weekday flights each way at the time of writing. However, despite this apparent monopoly, Business Traveller observes that Alitalia still faces stiff competition on the route in the form of high-speed rail. These services are operated by both Trenitalia and open access operator Italo, with journeys taking as little as three hours and ten minutes.

Despite a monopoly on air travel, Alitalia faces competition from high-speed rail between Rome and Milan. Photo: Getty Images

In the face of such a strong rail alternative, this program will surely be a crucial tool for Alitalia in terms of keeping passenger numbers competitive on its Rome-Milan corridor, while also keeping passengers safe. This reflects its slogan of “Alitalia, al lavoro per te” (Alitalia, working for you), and what better place to start than Rome’s ‘COVID-19 5-Star’ certified Fiumicino Airport.