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TRAVEL NEWS

Easter travel between the UK and Italy: What services are up and running

The Easter holiday is traditionally a busy time for travel between Italy and the UK - but this year several issues have combined to make travel tricky. Here's what is up and running if you have a trip booked.

Several UK airports have been hit by delays and flight cancellations.
Several UK airports have been hit by delays and flight cancellations. Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP

Flights

Companies including EasyJet and British Airways have been cancelling a high number of flights in recent days, because many of their staff have Covid.

More than 1,100 flights have been cancelled over the past week, including some 200 EasyJet flights to popular European locations.

If your flight is affected, you will be contacted directly by your airline.

Airports

If your flight is running as scheduled, be aware of issues at several UK airports.

Airports including Heathrow, Manchester and Birmingham have been hit by disruption because of staff shortages caused by Covid, affecting everything from airport security to luggage handlers. Passengers risked missing their flights because of lengthy delays, according to reports in the UK press. 

READ ALSO: Q&A: Your questions about travel to Italy and Covid rules answered

Passengers have been advised to make sure they are at the airport as early as possible to allow for delays, and unions have warned that the disruption could last for some time.

In the case of Manchester, the advice is to arrive three hours early.

No major disruptions have been reported at the Italy end, so departures from Italian airports should be comparatively straightforward.

Ferry services

For those planning to start their journey to Italy with a ferry ride over the English Channel, there are other disruptions in place.

P&O ferries may not resume cross-Channel services until “after Easter” – traditionally one of its busiest periods as holidaymakers look to make the most of the two-week school break – after its controversial decision to lay-off 800 members of staff in the UK, according to the RMT union.

National secretary of the union, Darren Proctor, told KentOnline: “The information we have is that individuals have tried to book crossings between Dover and Calais and the earliest they are being offered is April 19th.”

READ ALSO: What you need to know about travel to Italy this spring

P&O has not confirmed the union’s claims – but they will not be welcomed for thousands of holidaymakers looking to get to France and elsewhere over Easter. And it has been reported that one of its ships, the Pride of Kent, failed a safety inspection, and services on the short crossing are not expected to restart for several days, at the earliest.

This has, obviously, had a knock-on effect on other cross-Channel ferry services.

The ferry company P&O's decision to lay off 800 staff members has caused chaos for holidaymakers.

P&O’s controversial decision to lay off 800 staff members has caused chaos. Photo by Ben Stansall / AFP.

DFDS is putting on additional services, but has warned it will be operating at close to capacity over the busy four-day Easter period. P&0 has previously said that booked who had booked tickets should go to the port as planned, and head for the DFDS check-in.

However, DFDS has said that it cannot not take any more P&O passengers from April 8th to April 10th – a situation likely to expand into the bank holiday weekend for return journeys.

READ ALSO: What to expect if you’re returning to Italy this Easter

Eurotunnel

For those holidaymakers intending to road trip from the UK to Italy through France, Eurotunnel has also been experiencing the most traffic it’s seen since 2019, as cross-Channel passengers and freight have been switching to the undersea service since the start of the P&O crisis.

On Monday, one of its freight trains broke down en route to Calais, and needed to be repaired in the tunnel before returning to Folkestone, leading to additional temporary delays. 

Normal service resumed later the same day, but – like ferry operator DFDS – Eurotunnel is operating close to capacity. Existing bookings will be honoured, but don’t assume that you will get a crossing if you book at the last minute.

Traffic within Italy

While Italian airports and train stations are operating at normal capacity, motorway traffic is forecast to be heavy in Italy over the next few days. A recent survey by the Italian hotel association Federalberghi found that around 14 million of Italians are planning to travel on holiday over the Easter period.

Good Friday is not a public holiday in Italy, but schools are closed from Thursday and many Italians take the Friday off work to give themselves a ponte (bridge) holiday that stretches into Easter Monday, which means that as of Thursday afternoon some motorways are already seeing major blockages.

Traffic flows are likely to be at their highest on Friday 15th and Saturday 16th April, according to the trade publication Infomotori, so if possible, it’s wise to avoid travelling across the country by car on these days.

Health rules

Italy has extended its international travel rules until the end of April, which means that people travelling from the UK need either need proof of vaccination or recent recovery from Covid, or a recent negative test, to enter Italy – full details here.

There are no Covid-related requirements to enter the UK.

High-grade Ffp2 masks are required on all public transport in Italy and in transport hubs such as airports and stations. For services running from the UK to Italy, check the policy with your operator.

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TRAVEL NEWS

What’s it like travelling through Italy’s airports now?

As flight disruption continues in Europe during the August holiday season, passengers tell The Local how Italy’s airports are faring.

What's it like travelling through Italy's airports now?

Strikes and staff shortages have made air travel problematic across Europe since early June, but airports in some countries have been much more badly affected than others.

There are reports of ongoing serious disruption everywhere from Spain to Germany, with at least 15,700 flights already cancelled across the continent this month.

READ ALSO: Airport chaos in Europe: Airlines cancel 15,000 flights in August

Outside of Europe, more travel chaos has been reported in Australia this month, while passengers travelling to and from the UK have suffered months of disruption and cancellations.

Despite some limited strike action earlier in the summer season, Italian airports by contrast appear not to be badly affected.

Between June 20th and July 24th, some 3,600 flights from Italian airports were cancelled, or 1.8 percent of national flights and 3.6 percent of international flights, according to data from Italian National Civil Aviation Agency ENAC.

The most cancellations (377) were recorded on July 17th, the date of Italy’s last transport strike.

Fewer Italian flights are likely to be cancelled in August, with no strikes planned. However, travel to and from the country hasn’t necessarily been a trouble-free experience for everyone this month.

Passengers wait in Barcelona’s El Prat airport during the first wave of Ryanair strike action in July. Photo: Pau BARRENA/AFP

“It’s clear that the Italian airport system has reacted differently to the difficulties, even if the recovery was sudden,” ENAC president Pierluigi di Palma said in an interview with Italian national broadcaster Rai.

“I would say that we are mostly suffering the consequences of what’s happening in continental airports.”

The knock-on effect of flight cancellations and delays elsewhere has caused some disruption for passengers in Italy, while things are particularly busy this month as the number of people travelling to the country has shot up, exceeding 2019 levels.

Tania Davis, 41, travelled from London Heathrow to Venice with her two children in early August and tells The Local that while she found travelling from Heathrow “stressful and chaotic” everything was “fine” on the Italian side.

“We arrived very late at night because our flight was delayed by just over two hours, but once we got to Italy coming through arrivals and then getting our flight home a week later, everything went smoothly. I can’t fault the airport. It was as busy as you’d expect at this time of year but the lines moved quickly.”

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

Some travellers reported facing long delays going both ways, for different reasons. Reader David and his wife flew from Manchester to Brindisi in late July and back again two weeks later.

“We made the mistake of arriving at Brindisi for our flight home three hours before flight time as we had done on the way out, advised by Ryanair,” he tells The Local.

“We sailed through security at Brindisi, no staffing issues there unlike in Manchester where it took 90 minutes to get through.

“But our flight was then delayed, by three hours in the end. Arriving early just meant we had to spend even more time waiting in departures,” he says.

“t’s a really small airport and every flight on the board was delayed, so we were packed in like sardines in this small space with no ventilation.”

“The pilot said our flight was late arriving due to missing an air traffic control slot at Manchester,” he adds.

Other than delays apparently caused by disruption across flight networks, there have been very few reports of problems such as long security queues and lost baggage at Italian airports.

The government warned Italian passengers last month to take hand baggage only when travelling – but this was due to concerns about luggage being lost at destination airports, not at those within Italy.

Passengers wait at Rome’s Fiumicino airport during a strike airline company staff on July 17, 2022. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Italy has escaped the worst of the travel chaos “both for structural reasons and for the measures that the government has taken to limit the consequences of the pandemic”, writes Italian financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

Airport staff shortages are not a major problem in Italy, where “there are generally more worker protections and restrictions on dismissal than in other countries such as the United Kingdom,” Il Sole explains.

Italy was also the only EU country to ban layoffs amid the pandemic, Il Sole points out, with the government in 2020 forcing airline companies to keep their staff on even when flights were grounded.

This ban lasted until 2021, when it was replaced with financial incentives for companies that refrained from laying off staff.

Di Palma said the government’s interventions meant “we have been able to stem the haemorrhage of ground personnel that occurred at foreign companies during the pandemic, saving precious resources”.

READ ALSO: Italy’s summer tourism boom driven by American arrivals

While this is good news for passengers flying to and from Italy’s airports this summer, the ongoing situation across Europe means some disruption to travel plans remains likely.

The passengers we spoke to advised anyone flying this month to pack light, dress for comfort, and “lower your expectations”.

If your flight is cancelled or significantly delayed, you may be entitled to receive compensation from your airline. Find more information here.

Have you travelled to or from Italy in August? How did your experience compare to those featured in the article? Please leave a comment below to let us know.

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