Italians Look to Kill Rome’s Ciampino Airport, Help Alitalia

Yes, this is a post about Italy, but believe it or not, Alitalia isn’t the main focus. It’s the bungling Italian government that has caught my eye once again for their plans to help Alitalia and kick low cost carriers to the far corners of the Rome metro area. If your flag carrier can’t win through competition, might as well play dirty and help them out, right? Sheesh.

I don’t speak Italian, so my understanding of the situation relies on Google Translate and a Ryanair press release. Here’s what seems to be happening.

Noise has been a sensitive issue for those living around Ciampino airport, a mere 10 miles from central Rome. The airport had been growing with Ryanair and EasyJet having substantial operations along with smaller operations from Wizz and, apparently, an airline called Romavia (which still flies a 707?!). Alitalia and pretty much everyone else fly from Leonardo da Vinci Airport at Fiumicino, about 25 miles from the city center.

The region’s government decided to turn Viterbo, an old military base about 60 miles north of the city into the third airport for the area. Just to get an idea for how far out this place is, take a look at this map:

If they want a third airport, that’s there own business, but now all the noise complaints caused them to run a study. According to Ryanair, the results prove that there isn’t a huge noise issue, but the region’s government is still looking to shrink or shut the airport anyway. It wouldn’t surprise me.

Raise your hand if you know who would get the biggest benefit by having Ryanair and EasyJet move to the far away Viterbo airport. That’s right, it’s our good friends at Alitalia.

If anyone knows more about this story AND speaks English, hit the comments. By the way, if you just want to complain about the noise around the airport, don’t bother. That airport is one of the oldest in the world – it’s been there since 1916 – so you knew what was there when you moved in.

34 Responses to Italians Look to Kill Rome’s Ciampino Airport, Help Alitalia

  1. David says:

    Fiumicino is not *that* far away from Rome. It does after all have a regular express train service to/from Rome Termini station.

    To reach Ciampino from the city centre requires one of 3 options:
    1) Take the coach from the city centre – plenty available
    2) Take the subway to an edge-of-twon metro station, and then catch an onwards bus
    3) Take a train to Ciampino (town) station. While the airport is almost adjacent, the terminal is on the other side of the runway, so you either have a long walk, or you have to catch a bus or taxi.

    Overall, Fiumicino is probably the easier airport to reach from central Rome even thought it’s slightly further out. Further, while there’s nothing that bad about Ciampino, it really does feel like a no-frills airport. While Ciampino may have been Rome’s main airport until 1960, one gets the feeling that it really wasn’t designed for the scale of operations that would involve all the LCCs. I would guess also that until LCCs arrived in the last 10 years, that noise levels were a LOT lower than they are today.

    BTW – is the 707 used by Romavia for normal commercial service, or is it used just for Govt purposes ?

  2. CF says:

    David – Sorry, I guess I needed to make my post more clear, so I did. I’m not complaining about Fiumicino’s location, but that’s not where Ryanair and EasyJet would go. They’d go to Viterbo which is quite far out, and that would give the airlines at Fiumicino a big advantage.

    No clue about Romavia, but there aren’t many airlines flying 707s around in passenger configurations for any kind of service. All I know is that it says flights to Strasbourg, Nuremberg, and Tel Aviv are on the BAe 146, so that means other routes are either on the 707 (unlikely) or the BAC-111, which would be just as cool. I’ll see if I can dig up more info about them.

  3. David says:

    I know Fiumicino has higher fees, but easyjet, Air Berlin, Blue Air, Clickair, FlyGlobespan, GermanWings, Jet2, MyAir, Meridiana, Niki, SkyEurope, Transavia, TUIfly, Vueling, WindJet and Wizzair already have operations at Fiumicino now.

    Sure MOL would make a lot of fuss and noise, but is it possible the other LCCs would choose the higher fees at Fiumicino over somewhere remote like Viterbo, at least until the new train link at Viterbo is opened ?

  4. CF says:

    I would be shocked to see Ryanair go into a higher cost airport like Fiumicino. They’ve proven many times that they’d rather go to more inconvenient places if it saves them money. As for EasyJet, well they may serve Fiumicino but they only go to 4 places whereas they serve 10 from Ciampino. My guess is they wouldn’t be able to make all those Ciampino flights work from a higher cost facility.

  5. David says:

    I know that Ryanair would be very against setting up at Fiumicino, but I’m never sure quite how much of it is just bluster. They’ve already opened up a base at Madrid Barajas as a spoiler against Easyjet, and airport fees at London Stansted are pretty high for what is supposedly a LCC airport. Then again, if they can find a coach company to set up a shuttle service from Viterbo to central Rome….

    Easyjet on the other hand have made their largest base at London Gatwick, moving some routes from the relatively lower cost Luton and Stansted. Their main base in Paris is at CDG. I’m struggling to think of any airports used by Easyjet which are more than about 50 miles from a city centre. Wizzair used to fly to Girona, but have decided to move operations to the main Barcelona airport instead.

  6. CF says:

    David – You have a good point about EasyJet. They do try to fly to more convenient airports, that’s for sure. So maybe they’ll move more to Fiumicino. I don’t know that much about facility constraints over there. Are there any?

    As for Ryanair, I still don’t buy it. Didn’t they go into Madrid because there weren’t any viable alternate airports around? I have to think that Viterbo would be considered viable for them, but it would hurt them compared to their current location. They don’t tend to bluff very often. They’ll pull planes out in a heartbeat if they don’t like the cost structure they’re seeing.

  7. Ari says:

    Apparently Ciampino is slot constrained due to a 2007 noise constraint that reduced capacity by 30%. Ryanair has already filed for 10 more slots at Fiumicino, so it might be tough for them to resist being moved. It looks like NIMBYism is more at play here than Alitalia and their protectors in the national government.

  8. Ari says:

    Another opinion cites regional governor offering CAI this deal in order to keep it at Fiumicino. This fits with Alitalia’s earlier threat to pull the hub from Rome. So you may be right. If this goes through it will likely mean litigation from the European Commission.

  9. The Traveling Optimist says:

    Naive question: Is it possible the Italian government are simply following the model of HKG and BER by closing old, outdated airports (that also happen to be operationally restricted and noisy) and building or developing larger fields elsewhere?

    PVG and the new HKG are convenient despite being in the boonies thanks to maglev and other hi-speed rail connections. If a similar line is going in at Viterbo, who cares how far away it is as long as I can get downtown in less than an hour? And they can market the joint as being that much closer to Assisi, San Marino and other nifty places backpackers on Ryanair like to go.

  10. “Optimist”

    HKG is not really in the boonies. While it is no where near as central to HKG as its previous location (pretty much in the middle the city) it is not 60 miles from HKG Central. A cab ride from Central to HKG is 20 min. While cab drivers in Rome drive like lunatics, there is no way you’d get from Rome to the new airport in 20min.

    The Italian government has no need to make a major airport 60 miles out, they have FCO at roughly 25miles out. FCO, while riddled with its own problems, is a viable airport. The idea here is to force LCC traffic elsewhere, lower their costs, and push business travelers into using Alitalia.

    At least this is how I read it.

    -Steven Frischling

  11. The Traveling Optimist says:

    Steven – What cabbie did you take and would you recommend him the next time I’m there? :-) I’ve taken the Airport Express (love it) and that’s 24-30 minutes to Central itself.

    The distance is relative in any case to the ground transportation available (see Narita). Prior to the Paddington Express LHR, only 11 miles out, was a nightmare to drive, cab or Tube in to the city. That, to me, means that until the rail link is running, Viterbo will indeed be a chore and pain to access. After that, 25 miles or 60 miles won’t matter if it takes the same amount of time to get in to the city.

    And yes, Alitalia and the other majors will certainly benefit at least until that rail link is up and running. Then, if travel times are the same or at least close enough, their temporary boost will most likely disappear.

  12. BAP says:

    I believe the 707 is used for the GOVT only. I have no idea about the 111’s but it would be interesting to know if they are still around.

  13. Sean Ward says:

    I work in the air industry and can confirm that closing Ciampino is
    a typical italian dirty game. Immagine that in Ciampino executive jet and
    the really noisy Piaggio avanti do take off and land in the middle of the night.
    Those aircraft despite lighter than a Ryanair B738 do produce about 3 times
    noise of modern airliners. Italy is mafia-land and politicians do what they like.
    Not taking care of loss of general turism revenue produced by low-cost airline
    they will close Ciampino. Sometimes i think there is more justice in places like Nigeria than in a eu nation like italy.

  14. giulia says:

    have you ever been in ciampino? it’s a small, old airport with no train/metro connection to the center of rome, and even by car it’s a pain because road is 1 line always packed with cars (could take more than 1 hour drive from the center of rome). also it’s true that there are many residential buildings around the airport.
    if you land late in the evening, there is the risk that no bus is there to pick you
    up and even taxi could be difficult to find.
    the new airport in viterbo will have a 45 minutes train to the center of rome so it will more convenient than ciampino for everybody to connect to downtown rome.
    I really do not understand why ryanair is complaining about this: more people will prefer to fly out of viterbo rather than ciampino because train connection.
    if I were ryanair, I will focus my efforts to make sure train connection is on as soon as viterbo airport opens, rather than trying to protect an old and inefficient airport that is not convenient for their customers.

  15. Sean says:

    I agree with Guila, having also flown in and out of Ciampino via Ryanair. She wrote: “have you ever been in ciampino? it’s a small, old airport with no train/metro connection to the center of rome, and even by car it’s a pain because road is 1 line always packed with cars (could take more than 1 hour drive from the center of rome).”

    Pure distance isn’t what matters as much as a convenient rail link. Too bad Rome can’t copy Vienna’s move and have the super-convenient CAT train. A roughly 20-minute ride downtown, and you can can checkin for your plane and check your bags at the downtown subway stop the night before. Why can’t a city like Rome, so dependent on tourism, be more tourist savvy?!

  16. Kristen says:

    Does anyone else think the proximity of Viterbo to Civitavecchia (cruise ship terminal) to be an advantage? Perhaps the LCC’s will benefit?

  17. Ari says:

    @giulia, what until the rail connection opens? moreover, if people fly there, they clearly like it or don’t have better options at this time. why kill tourism to save the airline?

    the rail looks like it’s a 250 milion euro investment to get it going. you could legally make the case for moving everyone to the same facility – Fiumicino – and then offer other airports as alternatives, but I’m afraid the game is dirtier than that.

  18. David says:

    As far as I’m aware, almost all of the traffic at Ciampino is on LCCs rather than full-service network airlines.

    Maybe I’m just being cheap… but if I’m flying on a LCC into an airport, I really don’t want to spend a lot of money travelling between the airport and the city. Sure some high-speed express train might be more comfortable, but if spending 15 mins longer saves the equivalent of US$10, I’d rather save the money.

    There are plenty of direct coaches between Termini and Ciampino. Alternatively get a train from Termini to Ciampino town, and catch the bus from there. Are these transport options really so bad, given that most people at Ciampino are flying Ryanair ?

  19. The Traveling Optimist says:

    Kristen – Viterbo might be more convenient for those cruises that originate out of Rome/Civitavecchia but that traffic isn’t large enough to make too many bones about. They could get some incremental business, though from people who missed the sailing and need to catch up to the ship.

    I thought of a Med Cruise for a vacation once until my aunt and uncle came back telling me about the $6000 they spent on shore excursions over the length of the cruise. Nine hours of shore time in the Eternal City is a complete joke to me.

  20. Simon says:

    Fleet info:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romavia#Fleet
    confirms your suspicions.

    Cranky, I do not disagree with your conclusions about the business but they betray a certain American (and perhaps SoCal in particular ) chauvinism towards distance and perceived driving time over rail transit times.

    Conversely, I’m in DC right now and consider BWI “closer” than IAD.

  21. CF says:

    That’s a fair point, Simon, but I still think this stands up to that test. I’m not saying that Ciampino is much more convenient than Fiumicino since the access is better to Fiumicino, but Viterbo is not only much further but it doesn’t appear to have a train line yet. Even when it does, Fiumicino will still be more convenient.

    BTW, the Baltimore/Dulles comparison isn’t quite the same. From the middle of DC, BWI is only about 5 miles further than Dulles. (I lived in DC for four years and spent plenty of time heading to BWI instead.) Viterbo is 35 miles further than Fiumicino from the middle of Rome.

  22. Bel says:

    Hi there, can anyone tell me the distance between Ciampino & Fiumicino airports? (in time)
    I am flying into Fiumicino but then have to transfer to Ciampino to take a Ryan Air flight to Madrid.

    Any advice on the best way to do this would also be fantastic! :)

  23. CF says:

    Bel – I don’t know a ton about it, but here’s a shuttle service that says it takes about half an hour:
    http://www.rome-shuttle.com/Fiumicino_Airport_to_Ciampino_Airport.html

  24. Simon says:

    Cranky, it sounds like you’re already concnious of the point I was trying to make and my example was poor, You can put that down to my NorCal chauvinism about SoCalers.I got the impression from some of our Italian commentators that there was a rail link.

  25. CF says:

    Simon – In general, I try to be conscious of rail links, but I must admit that I don’t know a ton about the Rome situation. My understanding is that there’s easy rail links to Fiumicino and there will be to Viterbo once they upgrade it (whenever that is). Ciampino has nothing easy, but since it’s fairly close to the city, the frequent coach service is adequate. But even with a good rail link to Viterbo, the extra mileage will still make it far less convenient that Fiumicino.

    BTW, I’m one of the SoCal guys who loves the Bay Area (and tried not to leave after I finished up at Stanford, but my job took me elsewhere). I’m also a big public transit fan. When I first moved back down to LA, I took public transit to work for over a year – definitely not a common thing in these parts. We also live fairly close to the Blue Line rail here, so I take that up to downtown LA on occasion. So I definitely try to carry that mindset with me.

  26. Bel says:

    CF – thank you very much for the link I will take a look at it today :)

  27. Lisa says:

    Hello to all those who have left comments. I know that most of the comments here are old but I felt the need to write and explain what is really happening at Ciampino airport.

    I cannot believe that once again Ryanair is manipulating the facts to gain public support.

    Wanting to close down Ciampino has absolutely NOTHING to do with Alitalia and is something which we, the residents of the areas around Ciampino have been battling for many years.

    Yes, you are right, the airport of Ciampino was built in 1916 but solely for military purposes which meant occasional and very small flights. There were no plans or licenses to extend it to commercial flights when all the surrounding houses were built.

    With the advent of low cost flights Ryanair had paid its way through and has bought out Ciampino airport. The fault is also of our politicians but it’s the 15.000 people who live around Ciampino that are now paying the consequences.

    I live in a town about 3kms from the airport and the situation has become UNSUSTAINABLE. I cannot even begin to explain how bad it now is. The first Ryanair plane leaves at 6.30 in the morning, 7 days a week and the last plane is at 11.45. There are more than a hundred planes in between which are so loud that our house actually shakes. We chose to move out of the city to live in the quiet of the countryside and now this is what we have to contend with. Whenever a plane goes by it is so loud that we actually have to stop speaking.

    The worst thing about this whole situation is that the levels of noise and pollution are ILLEGAL. They do not respect any Italian or European laws and has been proven that this is the case. Not only is noise a very big issue but the hospitals around Ciampino dispense the highest quantities of anti-cancerogenous drugs in the whole of Lazio because of the airport pollution.

    I do understand that for those who aren’t involved Ryanair is just a way to get around cheaply but I can assure you that for those who are affected by the noise and pollution around Ciampino it is a whole different picture.

    It’s up to you whether you choose to believe Ryanair’s propaganda or the words of someone who lives in the area but, if Ryanair’s story is true why haven’t they chosen to accept the possibility to move all their flights to Fiumicino as has been suggested in the past? That would help them compete directly with Alitalia.

  28. CF says:

    Lisa – Sounds like another NIMBY argument. Military flights are louder and pollute more than commercial flights by far. If you moved near an airport, you should have expected that flights would continue and could increase. I’m not sure how the flights are illegal. Please elaborate. Ryanair uses 737-800s which meet all noise and pollution regulations right now.

    Ryanair doesn’t want to move to Fiumicino because I imagine it’s more expensive.

  29. James Quinlan says:

    Roma Viterbo will be Rome’s third airport like Stansted is ours. Cimapino is overcrowded and so constrained by existing development it has reached capacity. The Italian government made the decision to develope Viterbo in 2007 and it will be fully operational by 2010 (imagine a new airport in UK taking 3 years! With the whineing Nimbys it takes 25 years!).

    The good thing about Viterbo is that it is superbly accessible by trains with the relatively underused suburban routes from Roma (two routes) and to the high speed network at Orte and the main cruise port at Civitivecchia being within easy reach. It is s good location and easier to get to than Ciampino despite its City Centre location.

    Experience will tell

  30. Sandra says:

    I live in S. Maria delle Mole and moved here in 1982 when there was no Ryanair and so-called low-cost flights. We moved here from the city for peace and quiet. Yes, the airport was built in 1916, primarily as a military airport. What type of planes were flying then!!! Not Ryanair that is for sure! Our whole lives have been ruined by Ryanair. First flight at 6.30 am and last, if it is not delayed, at 11.45, 7 days a week. We live in a 2-storey house and it is as if Ryanair is flying into our bedrooms. We cannot hear one another speak and watching TV in the evening is a nightmare. In July 2009 the Ciampino authorities were told they had one month to remove the low-cost flights from Ciampino. Of course again the Mafia has not removed these flights. They are ruining peoples lives and health. How can one of you be so rude to criticize Ms. Lisa above in such a way when you obviously don’t live here. There are homes 150 metres from the runway and these were not built “abusivo”. There are 180 flights arriving/departing Ciampino. It has been proved that the decibels and junk being emitted from these planes is not legal. Obviously alla Italiana we have to suffer the illegalities. Of course Mr. Michael O’Leary doesn’t want to move to Fiumicino where it may cost a bit more. He wants to remove the toilets from his planes to get another 6 seats in or at least make you pay to go to the toilet. With this type of mentality what can one expect – he was in Rome recently, staying in the centre and accused the Italian authorities that their Crystal testing was not correct!!! There just aren’t words. And for someone to defend the illegality of flights in/out Ciampino is incredible. Travel in a Ryanair and see how they cut across S. Maria delle Mole, something the charter flights never did. Come and live in S. Maria delle Mole before passing comment, especially some of the rude comments I have read.

  31. Sandra says:

    I would just like to add that the low-cost flights in/out Ciampino have increased by 700% (yes 700%) since 2001!!!!

  32. James Quinlan says:

    Actually Viterbo is not so much of a problem from Roma as it is on busy suburban rail route; it is actually easier than Ciampino. The real problem for Ciampino is that is prime real estate and the Roma authorities see it a development site.

  33. James Quinlan says:

    @ Sandra:

    Sandra I have flown out Ciampino on Easyjet gazing down at the housing surrounding the airport and have thought how badly located the airport is. (I am a urban planner by profession).

    Now easyjet fly to Fiumicino I much prefer that route because of the Leonardo express goes straight to Terminii where I can pick up train to Orvieto where I have a house.

  34. Viterbo will be the best place for the next airport in Rome. Its really a very good suburban area connected with rail, road. Ryanair and EasyJet are really excellent flights what we dont want to miss. And If the administrative persons like to move the flight at Viterbo, I think that will be the good decision.

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