Fallout from May fire putting Fiumicino traffic – and Italian tourism − at risk.

FiumicinoincendioproblemiAfter ongoing uncertainties about possible health problems caused by a severe fire at Terminal 3 in May, the Italian Civil Aviation Board (ENAC) has decided to reduce air traffic at Fiumicino airport by 40% for the foreseeable future. Coming just as the tourist season is moving into high gear, visitors can expect significant check-in delays or re-routing to Rome’s smaller airport, Ciampino. The cutback was asked for by AdR (Aeroporti di Roma) but is not good news for anyone.

The new regulations mean reducing the number of daily departing flights from 1000 to 600. Following the fire on the night of May 6th, the causes of which are still being investigated (see below), traffic had  already been reduced with almost all low-cost airlines re-routed to Ciampino (in recent years, EasyJet had moved from Ciampino to Fiumicino and other low-cost companies including Veuling and Blue Panorama had also switched to the larger airport).

But even if this meant some 20,000 fewer passengers a day, it was not enough. The attorney general’s office in Civitavecchia, which is handling the investigation, has also put under sequester the D quay, thereby eliminating from daily use the latter’s 14 embarkation jetways, out of a total of 47. The attorney general’s office believes that the fire might have left unacceptably high levels of particulate matter, including two types of dioxin. The main concern is not for passengers, who are in the airport for only a short time, but for airport workers. What is absurd, is that 35 days after the fire, Italy’s health authorities don’t seem able to decide whether the above is true or not.

In the meantime, Alitalia has announced that check-in all its flights will now take place at Terminal One. AdR has set up a task force to help passengers who arrive at the airport only to discover their flights have been cancelled. And airlines are being asked to text their passengers about changes in flight plans. There does not seem to be any problem for arriving passengers. I myself flew into Rome from London on June 3, and things were totally normal. My departure a week before was, instead, more complicated than usual. This was before the shutdown of D quay and nevertheless  after checking in at Terminal One, I had to walk a considerable distance, take a shuttle bus to another departure gate, board at that gate, and get back on another bus that took the passengers out to the plane.

As far as is known, the fire broke out in the kitchen of an airport café. One story that is going around is that the short circuit that caused the fire came from a mobile air conditioning unit that had been placed in front of an electric power board that was believed to be overheating to cool it down. Cool it down? How about just fixing it?









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