As part of its latest Covid-19 decree, signed on June 11th, Italy's government relaxed the rules on how far apart passengers have to sit – but introduced new restrictions on cabin baggage and set a time limit on how long travellers can wear the same face mask.
The new rules came into force on June 15th, the same day that most other members of the European Union dropped their restrictions on travel to and from Italy. Italy has allowed travel within the EU, Schengen Area and UK since June 3rd.
The precautions apply to everyone flying to or from an Italian airport, regardless of where you're from or where you live, and will remain in place until further notice.
Here are the main rules you need to know about.
Social distancing is no longer compulsory on most planes
Italy has dropped the requirement for airlines to seat passengers at least a metre apart – which effectively halved the number of people who could board each flight – so long as the plane is equipped with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter.
According to the International Air Transport Association, HEPA filters capture more than 99 percent of airborne microbes and keep fresh air flowing continuously, resulting in all the air in the cabin being replaced entirely every two to three minutes. Almost all large commercial aircraft operating in Italy and throughout Europe use them.
Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
The change means that flights can once more depart full and passengers are no longer guaranteed empty seats around them.
Social distancing is still required in airports and on shuttle buses carrying passengers to and from the aircraft.
Face masks have to be changed every four hours
Masks remain compulsory for the duration of your journey, and on longer-haul flights they must now be replaced every four hours. Passengers are advised to bring their own replacements.
You must keep your mask on throughout the airport, too.
Limited hand luggage
Airlines are instructed not to allow passengers to bring large cabin bags onboard in order to minimise how much passengers move around accessing overhead lockers.
The government's decree doesn't specify maximum dimensions, leaving it up to airlines to set their own limits.
Italy's national airline Alitalia says its passengers are allowed only one piece of hand luggage total, instead of the bag plus personal item that used to be permitted. The airline's usual size and weight limits apply.
Entrano in vigore, da oggi, le nuove indicazioni per il trasporto aereo previste dal DCPM dell'11.06.2020 per un volo in totale sicurezza. Qui tutti i dettagli https://t.co/7eCDRQWBrX pic.twitter.com/OKcVWp98q9
— Alitalia (@Alitalia) June 15, 2020
According to La Repubblica, on flights leaving from Rome's Fiumicino airport on June 15th Alitalia was allowing only the first 50 passengers to take their hand luggage onboard, placing everyone else's bags in the hold. Meanwhile passengers who had brought an extra handbag or briefcase were obliged to check one of their bags at their own cost.
You have to sign a form
Passengers must now fill out an 'autodichiarazione' (self-certification form) before each flight, declaring that they do not have Covid-19 or any of its main symptoms (fever, coughing, difficulty breathing, sore throat, headache, fatigue, loss of taste or smell, diarrhoea).
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You must also state that you have not had close contact with anyone who has Covid-19 in the past 14 days, nor with anyone who became ill in the 48 hours before their symptoms appeared.
People without a completed form will be denied boarding. Contact your airline for a copy (Alitalia's version is here), which you should print out and fill in before setting off.By signing the form you agree to inform the local health authorities if you develop symptoms within eight days of flying. You must also give your contact details so that the airline can reach you for at least 14 days after your flight.
Allow extra time for boarding and disembarking
Getting on and off the plane will almost certainly take longer than usual now that airlines have to enforce social distancing before and after take-off.
Shuttle buses are now required to operate half empty, while airlines must regulate the number of people boarding and disembarking at once to avoid crowding.
You may also be subject to temperature checks before or after flying, with anyone found to have a fever of 37.5 degrees C or higher at risk of being forbidden to continue their journey.