“I want to fly from the US to Europe. Where can I go? How can I avoid quarantine on arrival?”

It’s a question we get asked a lot, but with each country’s complex and ever-changing rules, it can be a difficult one to answer.

The US rules are pretty simple: unless you’re a US resident or family member, or flight crew, they won’t let you in if you’ve been to any of the following countries within the past 14 days: the European Schengen area, the UK and Ireland, mainland China, Iran, and Brazil.

The rules in Europe are not so straight-forward.

The US is not included on the EU “safe list”, and the chances are that it won’t be added anytime soon. This is the list of non-European countries, published by the EU, from which it recommends allowing nonessential inbound travel.

However, because it’s up to each EU member state to decide how to implement this list, there’s a lot of variation in the specific rules each country has put in place.

The big three things to note:

  1. There are some European countries which only look at where you’re flying in from, rather than the nationality of the pax onboard. This is the opposite of what happens in the US, where the rules are based on where the pax have been within the past 14 days.
  2. Intra-Schengen “freedom of movement” is still largely alive and well – most Schengen countries are still open to travel from other Schengen counties. If you can get into one, you’re more likely to be able to access others.
  3. Where that doesn’t work, many countries are still allowing direct flights from the US for “business purposes”.

Dodging the ban

Here are some of the countries known to allow direct flights from the US for “business purposes”: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Croatia, Denmark, Italy, Montenegro, Netherlands, Serbia, Spain.

And here are some where intra-Schengen flights with no quarantine should still be possible: Austria, Belgium, Germany, France, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden.

Popular dodges

Pax from the US flying direct to France can only do so for “essential” reasons, and need to fill out the International Travel Certificate for this. Travellers from the US can dodge this ban by flying to the UK first – do a quick stop there, get your passport stamped, and then fly straight on to France. This loophole works because the rules in France are based on where you fly in from, not what nationality you are or which country you live in. You’ll still need proof of a Covid test to enter, and will need to complete a Public Health Passenger Locator Form, but there won’t be any quarantine on arrival.

The rules here are horribly complicated. Check them out here. There are a few ways US pax can enter, but the main one that’s being used is for “business purposes” – for which you need prior approval. Max ground time is 120 hours, and there’s no quarantine required. You’ll need an invitation letter from a local business. Best thing is to work with a local handler to make sure everything’s set up correctly.

Other fun places

Turkey reopened for international passenger flights on June 12. Whoever you are, wherever you’re flying in from, whatever type of flight (airline or GA/BA) – all are welcome (except flights from Cyprus – they’re still banned, and probably always will be). No quarantine as long as pax are symptom-free. There are still health checks on arrival, and the DGCA has published some guidance to operators on all the steps that should be taken for flights to Turkey – see here for details.

Not a Schengen country, so it doesn’t really open to a lot of intra-EU flying, but still a decent option if you’re looking for a holiday on the Mediterranean. Basically, non-EU foreigners are currently allowed to enter Croatia for tourism or business, and as long as they have a negative PCR covid test that is less than 48 hours old they won’t have to quarantine. More info here.

For more info on ban-dodgery, Universal Aviation have written an excellent article on some of the popular European access points and travel corridors for third-country nationals, which you can read here.

Travel within the EU

Restrictions on travel within Europe have been gradually easing over the past few months, but it can still be tough trying to work out exactly what each European country’s rules are for inbound travel. Some countries have re-opened their borders to other EU states, while others have only partially reopened to travellers from certain places. Some have quarantines for inbound passengers, some don’t. Some have tried to create closed travel “bubbles” or “corridors” between certain countries.

Fortunately, the EU’s tech team have created a simple tool for us to check exactly what travel rules are currently in place for each European country – check it out.

Here’s the homepage:

Select a country from the list, a map opens, and hey presto, it will tell you what the restrictions are for travel from another EU country:

Click on the little red globe icon, and it will tell you what the restrictions are for travelling into that country from outside the EU:

There’s a bunch of additional info available through the different tabs and icons – have a play around.

For more info on the latest travel and flight restrictions, Opsgroup members should head over to the #george channel in Slack. George is our friendly Ops-Bot. Ask him something, and he’ll dig into the OPSGROUP vault to see what the group knows. He understands a whole load of commands: permits, weather, ICAO codes, airport names, countries, keyword searches. If you’re still stuck for an answer, ask other members in the group in the #questions channel, or shoot us an email and we’ll see what we can dig up.

More on the topic:

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David Mumford

David Mumford

Opsgroup team member. International flight ops news hound.


  • James Alexander says:

    “Here are some of the countries known to allow direct flights from the US for “business purposes”: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Croatia, Denmark, Italy, Montenegro, Netherlands, Serbia, Spain.”

    Hi, I can’t find where the Netherlands is making any exceptions for “Business Purposes”. Could you point me towards the resource where you found this?

  • Basing their rule regarding the US as being residency and not citizenship makes perfect sense to expats. My company operates two N registered aircraft that are based in Macau. None of our pilots (myself included) have been inside the US since before the outbreak of COVID-19. In order to operate our N registered aircraft we must hold a US FAA license and a US medical with a US passport. So, we should be affected by the rules for the country where we reside.

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