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, are severely disrupted after a fire on Sunday night. No one was injured and the cause of the fire is as yet unknown.
The airport was meant to reopen earlier this week but authorities have now said that Terminal A, where the fire happened, will reopen on 24 July.
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 passengers during Sicily’s busy summer season.
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.
In addition, only 4 flights will land at Catania airport per hour until 26 July.
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 flight leave from or land the night before they are due to travel.
Catania airport have said that they “are working to gradually improve the airport operations.” Evidence from the fire has now been collected and cleanup will begin today (Friday) in Terminal A.
Where are Catania flights being diverted to?
Flights are being diverted to other airports in Sicily such as Palermo, Trapani and Comiso.
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 1-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. Wizz Air will be keeping passengers informed via SMS/email about their flight’s status on 18th and 19th of July.”
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 have 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.
Eurowings said yesterday (19 July) that all of their flights will be in and out of Palermo until 22 July.
Jet2 have 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 not received news 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.
Users are frustrated that the airport was meant to reopen on Wednesday but their flights after that date are still being cancelled. One user said: “Catania airport says it reopened today but our flight for Thursday got cancelled. Have to drive to Palermo for a flight.”
Others are tweeting about experiences of friends and family flying into or out of Sicily.
Sicily is at the centre of European ‘heat storm’
Italy is currently in the grips of a major heatwave. Palermo, Sicily’s biggest city, is one of 16 Italian cities with heat warnings in place. Temperatures have reached 46°C and the heatwave is not forecast to break until 25 July.
Watch the video above to see more about Catania airport being closed.