152 Arriving Passengers Deported From Italy Because Entry Restrictions Changed While They Were Inflight

At the beginning of the global pandemic I began cancelling trips to regions then-unaffected by the virus not out of concern for getting sick, but out of fear of travel bans or flights shutting down while I was away. I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to get home. The number of repatriation flights, and people still stranded around the world, suggests the fear was reasonable.

Then as travel began picking up my concern shifted – even though I’m comfortable actually flying one reason to proceed with caution is the risk that you’ll get sick, or come into contact with someone that’s diagnosed with COVID-19, and have to quarantine. That means you may have to stay at your destination for up to a couple weeks longer than you had intended, at your own expense.

My original fear – about changing travel rules while you’re gone – seems to be a risk again as countries figure out how to open up, and as they shut down again sometimes in targeted ways in response to outbreaks in specific regions.

Even New York’s domestic travel restrictions are ever-changing, based on rate of COVID infections in different states. As infection rates change, states will be added and removed from the list of those having to quarantine for two weeks on arrival. So your state may be clear now, you’ll buy airline tickets, and by the time it comes to travel you could be facing travel restrictions.

Something even more extreme happened to a large number of passengers on two separate Qatar Airways flights bound for Italy: restrictions changed while the passengers were on their way to the country, and they were forced to turn around once they had landed.

Qatar Airways flights to Milan and Rome carried 152 passengers from Dhaka, Bangladesh on Wednesday. While they were in transit Italy imposed restrictions on entry from Bangladesh based on increasing confirmed COVID-19 infections there. Qatar Airways flight QR131 from Doha to Rome returned 3 hours later back to Doha with 112 Bangladeshis on board, while flight QR127 from Doha to Milan returned carrying 40 of its passengers from Bangladesh. Other passengers who had arrived on those flights are being required to self-quarantine for 14 days as a precaution.

According to a Qatar Airways spokesperson (via Google translate),

[P]assengers from Bangladesh who traveled on scheduled services to Rome and Milan via Doha on 8 July were unable to enter Italy due to a change in the regulations made by the authorities competent while they were traveling. ” The carrier says it has “guaranteed passengers assistance and made available the flights to return to their country of origin”.

It’s the regime uncertainty as much as restrictions themselves that are damaging to travel at the moment.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @Gary this is why people should’t be traveling right now. Governments are acting for their CITIZENS. Its a shame these people got caught up in this, but I bet you the MILLIONS of Italians would rather not go back under full lockdown than have 20 tourists.

  2. I agree with joel. Travel should be minimized. You got the people who think they should do whatever they want but then either they get sick or possibly pass it on to others and who has to suffer? The innocent people trying to be careful and the medical staff that have to take care of the ones they require attention.

    My only travel will be if I end up changing jobs and moving back closer to family. I’m going through a virus situation right now and has already killed one person. And 14+ days later I still haven’t received test results (took over a week to get tested since I didn’t have any symptoms and another 7 days to get results).

    Yeah, losing money sucks but dying or long term suffering (in many age ranges) is worse.

  3. There is an ongoing investigation concerning people from Bangladesh on those flights as Italian authorities have allegedly discovered that false Covid tests with negative results have been fabricated falsified and provided to those travelers
    One of them has violated a mandatory quarantine as he tested positive at Rome airport prior to the total closing
    He kept traveling by train in Italy and they are now attempting to contact tracing to limit the spreading caused by that individual
    If I were on those flights I would require to be tested
    Best wishes
    Maurizio Marroni

  4. Always can count on the Karens to show up on these comments. If you want to cower in your homes, feel free, but don’t lecture others about whether we should travel. No one is interested in your armchair virology knowledge or pretentious “no one should travel” talk. This is a travel blog, why even bother?

  5. Joe,

    People who minimize their time outside of home are reducing the person to person contact that spreads the virus. This allows other people who have to be out and about to do their jobs while keeping the transmission rate low enough that hospitals are not overwhelmed.

    I’m not clear how that translates into those who are staying home as cowering.

    Perhaps you can explain.

  6. Joe,

    It’s funny you sound like a perfect Karen. People who advocate for common sense and minor inconveniences like wearing a mask or postponing leisure travel normally don’t act like Karens, because they are self aware and believe in science.

  7. @rich: Pixel.labcorp.com.
    $119 or they will bill your insurance. The test is overnighted by fedex and includes a thermal insulator for the overnight return to LabCorp which is included in the price.
    Results a few days after the test.

    Seemed pretty simple to me for anyone here looking to get tested. If you are commenting on this blog my bet is you can afford the $119 if you’re that concerned.

  8. Just my two cents, I am here in Denmark and no one is required to wear masks anywhere, our outbreak has almost completely gone, we travel and socialize and only the biggest venues are still not allowed.

    It just does not make sense to me with all the mask hysteria and distance because unless the Danes have some genetic defence of the virus, it’s all been blown out of propotions.

    The danish authorities says that masks don’t work.

    The almost all that have passed from the virus older than 82 years old and ALL have had another diagnosis already.

  9. @Loungeabuser- You must be one of those lucky ones or you probably had the test done more than a couple of weeks ago. My son was given an appointment 4 days after he applied and took 2 weeks to get it back. Ditto with several of his friends who used different venues. Today it’s totally different and labs are running at least 10-14 days behind due to the high demand. To make matters worse, there will likely be a shortage of test kits in the next couple of weeks. So i am glad you were able to get yours done as quickly as you did and when you did.

  10. @Fernsie: I ordered it last Thursday, got it Friday, returned it Tuesday and results tomorrow.

    I think people paying cash go to the front of the line.

  11. I think it makes more sense to change the entry restrictions often, based on the current number of cases, rather than keep the same entry restrictions forever like that idiot DeDantis did in FL. They still have the sane restrictions they established on March 23, even though the situation is very different. On the other hand, when a country/state adds new entry restriction, they should at least give a 24 hours notice, so people who are already on the way are not affected.

  12. Good move, Italy! You suffered enough from CV-19 and learned your lesson. You’ve every right to bar people from your country who pose risks … ANY kind of a risk.
    BTW, tested negative for the virus in June, and am awaiting results for antibody test now. Definitely going to donate blood if antibody +.

  13. Sigh, I come to read about travel and find the comments infested with know-nothings lecturing me about how I shouldn’t travel. It’s probably best not to read this part anymore.

  14. The article is totally inaccurate. Passengers land and did entry in Italy but with false covid test and some of those were virus carrier. You like talk badly of others country but you go in holiday always abroad. Pathetic.

  15. Dear sir
    I should be going to Sicily on 26/7/20 with family of eight I’m 76 with asthma my wife is 62 ,my son in law has type one diabetes.we should be going with EasyJet who say if we don’t fly we lose our money £1300 we obviously can’t possibly go safely do you think this is acceptable
    E J Roberts

  16. @joe I agree. probably best you don’t comment, too. I think the world would be a better place for it 🙂

    But, trolling aside, if you really can’t get your head around the notion that masks slow / prevent the spread of disease (not just covid-19, but disease in general), then I pity you. I’ve had no colds since march, despite there being a month of rain here in the UK. In fact, not even a sniffle.

    Just because your pres seems to think that masks are for idiots, he really shouldn’t be a role model for you. Christ, he doesn’t even understand fractions, it seems

  17. Our house is in Italy and we have legal residency. We were trapped in the USA while on family business. Our application for Permission to Stay must be renewed by November. How will we know if the Questura is open to process our renewal?

  18. @Panda – thanks for the insight Karen. This is why I cannot help but read the comments. I know I am sure to read something interesting from an armchair virologist. Tell me, how difficult was your education at Twitter University?

  19. Sanders,

    Masks are very prevalent at Denmark’s Copenhagen-Kastrup airport, even being worn by those not flying. And SAS requires most passengers to wear masks during the flight.

    The airport is its own world when it comes to masks, but the notion that there is no mask use in Denmark doesn’t hold up as true.

  20. Please be kind to each other.

    My father has lung cancer and lives away, in Northern Italy; our family business is in tourism.
    When our country entered lockdown, my siblings and I had to face the possibility that he might die and we might not be able to comfort him in his last moments.
    This was anguishing, but health experts deemed it necessary to mitigate outbursts. It’s understandable: my desire to see my father should not lead to the death of somebody else’s parent(s).

    We are very happy to welcome you to Italy, be it for leisure or for other (possibly very serious) reasons, when it is safe to do so.

    If Italian health experts deem your presence an excessive risk, they will reject your entry – possibly without warning. It sucks, but they will do what they need to do in order to protect lives. If you feel that it’s not fair, remember that they had to prevent people from attending in-country funerals.

  21. This happened as a person coming back from Bangladesh landed in Rome, he did not respect the quarantine travelled up and down to Italy, in taxi and trains, back in Rome he tested positive and the authority could not trace all the people he met during this crazy tour. The problem aren’t the government the problem is careless and selfish people.

  22. Panda Mick: if you really can’t get your head around the notion that masks slow / prevent the spread of disease (not just covid-19, but disease in general), then I pity you.

    Seems Trump is smarter than anyone in the U.K., and especially you. Choke on this (with the references listed so you can check for yourself. Don’t be such a smug fool, especially when you are wrong


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