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Sunday 20 June 2021

Letter from The military to the rescue for the FCO-JFK flight

The military to the rescue for the FCO-JFK flight

Author of the content

Stuck in the departure area at Fiumicino airport without being able to enter the airport or go to arrivals. This is the scene that occurred to me during the first phase of my return to the US. 

Let's start from the beginning. Alitalia flight 608 to New York, JFK airport (the only airline with a direct flight to the USA), leaves early from Rome and in order to arrive on time from the Adriatic coast, I book a hotel near Fiumicino for the evening before. The hotel offers a shuttle service from arrivals, but the Giulianova-Fiumicino bus (which I had taken to go to the airport) unloads passengers at departures. To go from departures to arrivals you have to go through a single door controlled by an agent who only allows passengers with boarding passes to enter for the same day, therefore they are excluded. I wander far and wide through the airport square in search of some external stairs, without success, until I meet a soldier on guard who, having understood the dilemma, allows me to use an elevator reserved for the staff, alerting a colleague of guard the arrival of my presence.

A parenthesis regarding the bus going to the airport. After having delivered the self-certification and measured the fever by the driver, you enter a comfortable coach with a ticket that costs little more than the toll on the A24.  

Returning to the airport (FCO), check-in was easy (also because I arrived at 7:20 for the flight of 10:40 and there were few passengers at the only entrance), but for New York the boarding takes they are located in an area other than the indications (near the Alitalia check-in at Terminal 3, rather than towards T1). A bit of confusion arose for the passport, as they wanted the American one at check-in (otherwise you needed a visa or a green card), while at the border check they preferred the Italian one.

Finally at arrivals T3.

On boarding they did not want the self-certification form completed at check-in (the temperature had been taken at the airport entrance with a thermoscanner and again before entering on board) because the plane, a B777-300 had only 60 passengers and therefore safe for social distance. The form could also be filled online. However, at FCO the concept of social distance does not seem very clear since those arriving by flight from Milan in connection to New York are crammed into a crowded shuttle to access the terminal. 

Boarding for JFK started from the back rows (skipping the preference model), while landing started from the front. The crew was diligent in observing the use of the masks. The on-board dining service was basic: ravioli, cheese, dessert and only water for drinking.

In flight, the "US Traveler Health Declaration" form was distributed, the equivalent of the Italian self-certification, which requires quarantine for those coming from EU countries, but strangely not from highly contagious countries such as Russia, India and Bangladesh.  

Even this operation was not administered with diligence: on the walkway to the immigration office an agent withdrew the "declaration" while another agent a little further on measured the fever, which was therefore not noted on the form as it was expected. Then at passport control, due to a computer problem, the passengers (along with others, who arrived on a flight from Asia) were detained for manual data entry. However, due to the few passengers arriving, there is no queue for the taxi.

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