Fiumicino's Terminal 3 reduces operating capacity

Crisis leads to calls for government to use military air bases.

The fire-damaged Terminal 3 in Rome’s main international airport at Fiumicino will reduce operating capacity to 60 per cent from midnight on Friday 12 June, following safety concerns from Italy's civil aviation agency ENAC.

The 60 per cent operating capacity will be a further reduction from the current 80 per cent level in place since the fire on 7 May. The blaze occurred in the crucial intersection in the Terminal 3 departure areas between gates G and H which is also the through-way for passengers on connecting international flights between Terminal 3 and Terminal 2.

The fire is thought to have been caused by a malfunctioning portable air-conditioning unit being used to prevent an electrical switchboard from overheating.

The order to reduce operating capacity has been taken over fears for the infrastructure of the terminal, which is used for international flights.

In practical terms the reduction in services means that, from 13 June, Terminal 3 will only be able to cope with 600 flights per day, down from the 1,000 it currently processes daily. Alitalia and Ethihad will hold all check-in operations at Terminal 1, and a number of low-cost routes have been moved to Ciampino airport.

The fallout from the fire continues to result in health problems for airport staff (there is still a strong smell of burnt material in Terminal 3 departures), as well as delays at security, which can only get worse with the arrival of the peak summer season.

Outgoing immigration procedures have been reduced to two ad-hoc desks placed after the turnoff to the monorail connection to the G departure gates in the satellite section.

It is also causing a loss of revenue for many of the luxury shops (which include Ferragamo, Burberry, Ferrari, Fabriano, as well as the only newspaper and magazine outlet) in the burnt out area. At present the intersection is in almost total darkness, the shops have been boarded up and a handful of workmen can been seen inspecting the electrical circuits.

An investigation is underway into whether the airport's safety officials and maintenance workers are to blame for the fire, while tests are also being carried out to see if toxic fumes from the blaze may have harmed airport employees.

The crisis has led to calls from Partito Democratico (PD) deputy Michele Anzaldi for the government to consider channeling passenger flights through military airports around the capital, at Grosseto, Pratica di Mare and Latina.

The handling of the situation has also caused some Italian politicians to question whether Rome is adequately prepared to deal with the influx of pilgrims expected for the Vatican’s upcoming Jubilee year.