No flights to or from the UK and Ireland will land at Catania airport until 26 July.
Flights at Catania airport, on the southern Italian island of Sicily, have been severely disrupted after a fire. No one was injured and the cause of the fire remains unclear.
The airport was meant to reopen earlier this week but authorities have now said that Terminal A, where the fire happened, will reopen in early August. From 26 July, flights will gradually increase.
In the mean time, many flights are being cancelled or diverted to other airports in Sicily, which are struggling to cope with the sudden increase in passengers.
Catania’s Vincenzo Bellini Airport serves 91 destinations of which 24 are domestic, according to ItaliaRimborso. 100,000s passengers are predicted to be affected by the disruption.
Catania airport: Flights cancelled or moved to other airports
The situation at Catania airport is creating chaos for both inbound and outbound travellers during Sicily’s busy summer season.
The airport’s Terminal C is still operational, but only four flights are landing per hour until 26 July. This is then set to increase to 10 flights per hour. A temporary structure will be set up from 1 August, allowing this to rise to 14 flights per day.
If your flight is departing from Catania as planned, you are requested to arrive no more than three hours before your flight to avoid overcrowding.
The airport has set up air-conditioned tents outside the terminal to process passengers.
As confirmed in a Notice to Airmen, no non-Schengen flights will land at or depart from Catania airport until 26 July. Non-Schengen countries include UK, USA, Ireland, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria. Here is a full list of non-Schengen countries.
Some airlines are proactively cancelling all flights, such as the UK’s Jet2 which has cancelled all flights in and out of Catania until 3 August.
While other airlines are diverting flights to other airports around Sicily. But many passengers are only being told where their flights leave from or land the night before they are due to travel.
Where are Catania flights being diverted to?
Flights are being diverted to other airports in Sicily such as Palermo, Trapani and Comiso.
However, on Tuesday Palermo Airport was forced to close after fires broke out nearby.
The airport has now reopened, but fires continue to burn in other areas of the island, including in the famed archaeological park of Segesta.
Comiso airport is a two-hour drive from Catania airport; both are on the east of the island. Whereas Palermo and Trapani are on the west of the island therefore four-five hours drive from Catania.
Comiso and Trapani airports are significantly smaller than Catania airport so they are reported to be struggling with the sudden increase in flights and passengers. They have been described as being “in chaos” and “under stress” as workers try to process 6-7,000 more passengers than usual in temperatures above 40C.
It has also been reported that Sigonella, a military airport close to Catania, may also start to operate diverted flights.
How to travel between Sicily’s airports
Authorities say that free shuttles are being provided between Catania and Palermo, Comiso and Trapani airports, where flights are being diverted to. They have not given further information on where they are leaving from, capacity or how to ensure you have a seat.
However there are reports that information on this transport is being provided to passengers at airports and on incoming and outbound flights.
Along with the free transport being provided by the airports, Alibus has increased the frequency of its shuttle buses between Catania airport and the city centre. These will also stop at Catania’s main train station.
Trenitalia has increased the frequency of trains between Catania and Palermo airports.
There are car hire companies at Sicily’s airports but these are likely to be overwhelmed with demand.
Can you get to Sicily by train or ferry?
In short, yes.
On the east of the island, where Catania is, there are trains from Siracusa, a one-hour drive from Catania, that take you to the Italian mainland where you can then connect to international trains.
There are also ferries from Palermo to Naples and Genova. Check GNV.it for more information on ferry routes.
Rome2Rio is an excellent travel planning website.
Catania airport cancellations: What should passengers do?
If you are due to fly into or out of Catania airport, the first step is to contact your airline or booking agent to find out if your flight is running.
This can be done via their website, app, email, phone or social media channels such as official Facebook and Twitter accounts.
If they contact you to say your flight will be diverted to another airport, you have the right to accept the change or request a refund – details should be given in their communication to you.
Bear in mind that there is likely to be a delay in receiving your refund as airlines will have many to process.
What is the advice from airlines?
Airlines are advising passengers to check their apps for flight information and updates.
Earlier this week Wizz Air issued a statement to passengers saying: “All affected passengers are being informed about the schedule changes, offered refund and rebooking options as well as hotel accommodation.”
Italy’s ITA Airways is rerouting some flights to Comiso airport, also on the east coast of Sicily. It has advised passengers to “check your flight status on Flight Info before travelling to the airport.”
Ryanair has said: “All passengers who have been affected by a cancellation or an airport change will be notified of their options.” They have also advised passengers to check the Ryanair app for updates.
Jet2 has cancelled all flights in and out of Catania until 3 August.
Other European airlines have been contacted for comment.
How have passengers reacted?
Travellers are taking to social media to express their discontent.
Many have said they have received no news from airlines on what is happening with their flights, with some saying they are waiting on hold on customer service phone lines for upwards of an hour with no response.
Others are angry at the lack of organisation and information at Catania airport.
Sicily is at the centre of European ‘heat storm’
Italy is currently in the grips of a major heatwave, likely induced by climate change. Palermo, Sicily’s biggest city, is one of 16 Italian cities with heat warnings in place. Temperatures reached 47.4°C in some areas on Monday but broke to a slightly milder 35C on Tuesday.
Watch the video above to see more about Catania airport being closed.