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ROME

Air taxis promised to fly above potholes of Rome

With streets filled with potholes, buses erupting in flames and soul-crushing traffic on the ground in the Eternal City, some say the only way is up.

People look at a VoloCity drone, the air taxi created by the German company Volocopter, displayed at the Piazza San Silvestro in Rome, on November 4, 2021.
People look at a VoloCity drone, the air taxi created by the German company Volocopter, displayed at the Piazza San Silvestro in Rome, on November 4, 2021. Andreas SOLARO / AFP

A new electric air taxi could be transporting passengers from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport to the city centre within three years, according to German company Volocopter, Rome’s airport operator ADR and transportation infrastructure holding company Atlantia.

The project, called VoloCity – which is also planned for Paris and Singapore — promises to whisk people from the airport to the city in 20 minutes, with no traffic and zero emissions, travelling at a maximum speed of 110 kilometres per hour.

READ ALSO: Rome votes in mayoral election dominated by rubbish and wild boars

Initially, the taxi will carry the pilot plus one passenger, “until the aircraft will fly completely autonomously,” when it will be able to take two passengers, read a joint press release announcing plans.

Still required for the Fiumicino project is the development of “vertiports” to allow the taxis to take off and land vertically.

In Rome on Thursday, the gleaming white Volocopter flying taxi was parked in a square near the Trevi Fountain where curious onlookers were allowed to board.

A woman sits aboard the VoloCity drone air taxi at the Piazza San Silvestro in Rome, on November 4, 2021.

A woman sits aboard the VoloCity drone air taxi at the Piazza San Silvestro in Rome, on November 4, 2021. Andreas SOLARO / AFP

“I would have liked them to have thought more about the railway system before going up into the sky,” said 32-year-old Giuseppe, who declined to give his last name.

Still, he conceded: “This is a leap into the future. We talk about going to Mars, so this is the least we can do.”

Local news reports put the price of the planned 20-minute ride from Fiumicino to the city centre at 140 euros ($161), compared to a taxi, which costs 48 euros, or a 32-minute train for 14 euros.

Italy’s ancient capital suffers from a notoriously creaky public transportation system, with pothole-laden roads that wreak havoc on tyres, ageing buses that sporadically go up in flames and metro stations often shuttered for months.

READ ALSO: It’s not terrorism, just Rome’s public transport: another bus goes up in flames

The idea of flying taxis – eventually without pilots – has spread worldwide, part of a push to ease congestion on roads and limit pollution.

Various companies, including ride-services giant Uber and automaker General Motors, are working on “vertical take off and landing aircraft” (VTOL), but major challenges remain, including regulatory issues and safety concerns.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Italian low-cost airline staff to strike on October 1st

Pilots and flight attendants from Ryanair and Vueling will strike on Saturday, October 1st over wages and working conditions, unions said.

Italian low-cost airline staff to strike on October 1st

Pilots and cabin crew from Ryanair and Vueling will take part in a national strike action on Saturday, October 1st, Italian unions confirmed in a statement released on Monday. 

The statement said Ryanair staff will hold a 24-hour walkout, whereas Vueling staff will strike for a total of four hours, from 1pm to 5pm.

At the time of writing it wasn’t yet clear how the strike would affect passengers, though significant delays or cancellations can’t be ruled out. 

Italian trade unions Filt-Cgil and Uiltrasporti called the strike in protest against the employers’ failure to “grant acceptable working conditions and wages that are in line with minimum national salaries”. 

Unions also slammed Spanish airline Vueling’s decision to lay off 17 flight attendants based in Rome’s Fiumicino Airport “after months of hard work and professionalism”. 

A Vueling Airbus A320 plane.

Staff from Spanish airline Vueling will strike over working conditions and the recent lay-off of 17 flight attendants. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The upcoming strike will be the latest in a long series of demonstrations that rocked Europe’s airline industry over the summer, causing significant disruption to thousands of air passengers. 

READ ALSO: Airport chaos in Europe: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

The last significant strike was held on Monday of last week, when a 24-hour national strike from unionised ground staff caused Italy’s flag carrier, ITA Airways, to cancel several domestic flights. 

On that occasion, ITA said affected passengers were rebooked on the first available flights.

As with all previous strikes, passengers travelling with Ryanair or Vueling on Saturday, October 1st are advised to contact their airline for updates prior to setting off.

In the event of delays and/or cancellations, the rights of all passengers are protected by EU regulation EC 261. This applies to any air passenger flying within the EU/Schengen zone, arriving in the EU/Schengen zone from a non-EU country by means of a EU-based airline (all airlines involved in the strike are EU-based) or departing from the EU/Schengen zone. 

READ ALSO: Passports: What are the post-Brexit rules for dual-nationals travelling in Europe?

According to this regulation, airlines are financially accountable for any journey disruption they are responsible for. That includes disruptions caused by airline staff strikes. Therefore, should your flight be significantly delayed or cancelled, you might be entitled to receive compensation from your airline. 

For further information on what you might be entitled to and in which cases, check our guide here.

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