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Right Now, Flying into Rome Might Be a Challenge

fiumicinoPeople who have had the misfortune of traveling in Italy during a rail strike know how challenging it can be to get around. Now imagine what happens when the baggage handlers at the country’s largest and busiest airport go on strike – but not by walking off the job, just by slowing things down.

That’s just what happened recently at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport (otherwise known as Leonardo da Vinci Airport), where baggage handlers were protesting low pay by slowing their work down to such an extent that thousands upon thousands of bags were delayed, some up to an hour. The workers have been accused of doing things like obscuring bar codes with chewing gum so that the automatic sorters wouldn’t be able to read where bags were going, and deliberately draining the electric bag-carrying vehicles of power so trips took longer than they might otherwise. The unions are denying this, instead pointing to the lack of investment in worker salaries and lack of additional workers as the cause of the problem.

Whatever the cause, the result was that thousands of passengers flying into Fiumicino were getting their Italian vacations off to a very bad start. I just hope they didn’t let that one experience color the rest of their time in Italy.

The Italian transportation minister pledged to put more workers at Fiumicino to help alleviate the strain caused by the backup, and in addition they are trying to free up more than $82 million that is supposed to be funding investments at the airport but which has been, like the luggage, delayed.

In other Roman airport news, the city’s other international airport, Ciampino Airport, is being sued by European low-cost giant Ryanair because the company which operates the airport (which is, incidentally, the same company which operates Fiumicino) has cut Ryanair traffic to Ciampino by 30%. Ryanair contends this is a bid to help struggling national carrier, Alitalia, and that the move will force the budget carrier to remove more than 60 flights into Ciampino per week from its schedule. Ciampino is the smaller of Rome’s two airports, but is popular with several of Europe’s many budget airlines. Officials from Aeroporti di Roma, Ciampino’s management company, say that they are cutting back on flights due to noise complaints from residents.

Have I mentioned lately that I highly recommend flying into Venice when visiting Italy?