U.S. airlines add COVID-tested flights to Italy as country reopens to tourists

FILE PHOTO: A United Airlines passenger jet takes off with New York City as a backdrop, at Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, U.S. December 6, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/File Photo

CHICAGO (Reuters) - United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines are adding flights to Italy with protocols for coronavirus testing as the country opens to leisure travelers from the United States for the first time in more than a year.

On Sunday, the Italian government eased a number of COVID-19 travel restrictions and requirements as it looks to boost summer tourism, including scrapping a mandatory quarantine for visitors from certain countries as long as they test negative for COVID-19.

As a result, United on Monday joined Delta and American in announcing additional COVID-tested flights to the popular European travel spot, which had been closed to tourists from countries including the United States, Canada and Japan.

The three U.S. airlines have multiple nonstop options to Rome and Milan and Delta plans to add nonstop flights to Venice from New York in July and from Atlanta in August.

U.S. travelers to Italy must take a COVID-19 test no more than 48 hours before boarding and again on arrival. If negative, they will be exempted from quarantine.

To return to the United States, travelers must present a negative test taken no more than 72 hours before departure, even if they have been vaccinated.

Airlines have lobbied for COVID-tested flights as a path to restart international travel, which has been severely restricted as governments seek to contain coronavirus infections.

As cases decline in parts of the world with effective vaccination campaigns, the European Union's executive has recommended easing COVID-19 travel restrictions to let foreign travelers from more countries enter the bloc, which at times has struggled to agree on a common response to the pandemic.

The United States continues to ban entry of non-U.S. citizens arriving from most of Europe, despite growing calls from airline industry leaders to speed the reopening of transatlantic travel.

(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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