What it's like flying out from Rome during the Coronavirus Pandemic

On 19 March, the United States State Department sent a Global Health Advisory to United States citizens, warning them to return to the U.S. or prepare to remain abroad for an indefinite amount of time. 

After this advisory was announced, many Americans flocked to airports all over the world, in hopes to get home before the boarders officially closed. For any travelers hoping to get back to their home country from Rome, here’s what you should expect:

Getting to the Airport 

Rome’s roads are practically deserted of both people and cars. However, the small amount of people, who have left their houses to venture out into a restricted world, are being routinely stopped by police officers. Unless you are willing to take public transportation, a taxi is the best way to get to the airport. This is the only way to avoid being questioned by the police. Taxis will be waved through these checkpoints.

If you plan on taking a rental car to the airport, prepare to be stopped. You can prepare by having the proper documentation on hand and giving yourself plenty of time to get to the airport. Most airlines have suggested that passengers arrive at least three hours before check-in. So, depending on how you plan on getting to the airport, be sure to factor in your traveling time.

Arriving at the Airport

The Fiumicino Airport is typically very busy. However, the airport is the perfect example of how the world has changed since the Coronavirus began to spread. Only a few people stand on the sidewalk, smoking a cigarette or talking on the phone. Cars don’t line the curb anymore. Only a few people are lugging their suitcases through the Fiumicino doors. 

Checking in Your Bag

A green rope separates you from the airport employees. Each one of them wears a mask. The masks and the distance between you and the employees makes it hard to hear. The rope separating you from the counter makes it hard to place your checked bag on the scale.  However, the airport employees will help you the best that they can. Once your boarding pass is printed and your bag is checked in, you will receive a paper asking you several questions: “Have you been in any of the following countries? If yes, when was the last time you were in that country?” “Have you come in contact with a person known to have Coronavirus?” “Have you experienced the following symptoms within the last two weeks?” You will need this paper to enter the United States. 

Going through Security

Going through security is typically stressful and chaotic. Most of the time you stand in line for 10 to 15 minutes waiting for the next bin to open. However, the airport was empty and going through the security checkpoint was extremely easy. There’s no reason to rush, as you put on your coat and place your electronics back in your bag. 

After Security

This is the point where things start to get hectic. After security, a barricade of police will stop you, before moving on to passport control. They will ask you where you are going, why you were in Italy, how long you have been in Italy for and a myriad of other things. Then, they will ask you to fill out a form. This form will ask you basic information. It is basically a written version of the verbal interview that you just went through. After filling out a form, put on some hand sanitizer and hand in your paper. An Italian police officer will sign off on it, and then you can move on. 

Passport Control

Before you can walk up to the counter and get your passport stamped, you will be tested for the virus symptoms . The test is fairly simple. It consists of stopping, standing still while they take your temperature and waiting for the operator to wave you through. If you wear glasses, you will be told to take them off for a more accurate reading. If you pass the test, you will be sent through passport control.

This is another place that typically puts us standing in a long line, waiting to go through. However, the lines for airport control were similar to the lines to go through security. There wasn’t a line and getting your passport stamped is the easier part of the airport journey.

Boarding the Plane

Getting on the plane is even simpler than before. There isn’t a long line for boarding. However, you will be required to wear a mask, once you get past the gate. Airport masks aren’t comfortable and strongly resemble toilet paper. The mask is folded in half, with two holes cute out at either end. If you are made to put on a mask like this, don’t unfold it. Airport personal will ask you to fix it. 

Once the mask is on your face, you will not be able to take it off, until you exit the air plane in America. This mask must remain on your face throughout the airport and on the entire flight.

Ph:bellena / Shutterstock.com