Despite the financial losses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the consequent halt to international travel, for Aeroporti di Roma – the owner of Rome’s civilian airports of Fiumicino and Ciampino – the last year has been quite successful.

In the last 12 months, the company has managed to face the pandemic in an exemplary way, earning praise and recognition from the aviation worldwide industry.

In January, the airports were the first in the world to complete the Airport Council International (ACI) Airport Health Measures Audit Programme, after being one of the first to be accredited under the ACI health accreditation scheme, which assessed what measures airports put in place to protect passenger and staff from the pandemic.

Its response to Covid-19 is not the only thing Aeroporti di Roma is being praised for. On 7 April, Ciampino and Fiumicino received a sustainability accreditation from ACI for the reduction of direct and indirect emissions at airports.

Aeroporti di Roma CEO Marco Troncone explains the reasons behind the airports’ success, from the commitment to sustainability to their effort to protect both passenger and staff from the pandemic.

Ilaria Grasso Macola (IGM): Aeroporti di Roma (ADR) has just earned the Airport Carbon Accreditation’s highest level of “transition”, and Fiumicino and Ciampino are the first airports in Europe to obtain certification. What role does sustainability play in your development strategy?

Marco Troncone (MT): In its proactive fight against climate change, Aeroporti di Roma (ADR) has committed to measure and control the CO2 emissions associated with operations and the activities concerning the Rome airport system by voluntary adhering to the Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) certification scheme proposed by ACI Europe.

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By accelerating on this path, ADR has become the first European airport – and the third in the world – to obtain ACA’s highest level of certification, committing to all the related challenges and objectives.

We are proud of this achievement, reflecting the primary role that sustainability plays in our strategy: now more than ever, our mission focuses on developing and managing an efficient and sustainable airport system, being an international leader capable of ensuring excellence in the quality and safety of the services it provides, so as to effectively respond to the current global challenges and be prepared to face the relaunch of the industry.

The ACA4+ certification recognises our relentless work in aligning our carbon management with global climate goals to reach absolute emissions reductions and strengthen ADR’s international role as an industry leader in terms of sustainable policies: not only do we constantly look at new technologies to reduce the CO2 emissions of the airports and airlines, but we also work closely with local authorities, constantly cooperating with them on environmental and mobility issues.

We placed our first green bond last November, aiming at using the net proceeds from the issue to finance and/or refinance eligible green projects. A really integrated approach on sustainability, to couple “green uses” with “green sources”, hence our green financial policy has just started and is meant to stay.

IGM: Parallel to the commitment to sustainable development, Aeroporti di Roma has also been at the forefront of preventive measures to handle the pandemic, being the first airports to get accredited with the Airport Health Measures Audit Programme and among the first to receive the Airport Council International (ACI) Health accreditation. Why do you think that is?

MT: These important accreditations confirm our commitment to support the recovery of the aviation industry in the safest possible way. Since the very beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, as an airport management company, we have implemented a series of measures to provide passengers and employees with the highest health and hygiene standards within a very short period, continuously seeking cutting-edge solutions that combine safety and comfort and it is with this spirit that we keep operating.

IGM: Practically, how does the Airport Health Measures Audit Programme work? In your opinion, will programmes such as this help regain passenger trust?

MT: The ACI Airport Health Accreditation programme provides airports with an assessment of how well their health measures align with the ACI Aviation Business Restart and Recovery guidelines and the recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Council Aviation Restart Task Force, along with industry best practices.

We obtained the certification after a careful assessment of the new health measures and procedures introduced as a response to the pandemic, including the cleaning and disinfection of areas, the maintenance of physical distancing, the protections provided to staff and the communications to passengers.

Showing passengers that their safety is our priority is certainly an important step to help them regaining trust in air transport and travel.

IGM: Organisations such as ACI have praised your swift response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the measures you implemented to guarantee the safety of both employees and passengers. What did you do to face the crisis?

MT: Since the beginning of the pandemic, Aeroporti di Roma has launched a significant intervention plan, combining innovative health measures with the establishment of testing areas and, most recently, the first vaccination centre opened in an Italian airport – in partnership with Regione Lazio and Istituto Spallanzani – to support the community.

Furthermore, we have strongly supported the implementation of new travel protocols, being the first airport in Europe to launch COVID-tested flights between Rome and the US, allowing passengers to avoid being subjected to quarantine obligations.

The significant risk reduction – so far, as little as 0.15% of confirmed positive cases – and the passengers’ satisfaction represent for us further proof that our model is solid and that we are moving in the right direction.

We now aim at further expanding the protocols based on pre-departure tests and supporting them with an appropriate digitalisation of processes.

IGM: In your opinion, what will 2021 bring to aviation? Will we see the industry get back on its feet after a disastrous 2020?

MT: Our hope is that a combination of new travel protocols, the implementation of digital tools, including the launch of the EU’s Digital Green Certificate, and the progressive roll-out of vaccination campaigns will lead to a slow recovery of the aviation industry and tourism, starting from the 2021’s Summer season.

However, we should not underestimate that the phase of coexistence with the virus will last for the next few years – reiterating the importance of implementing shared travel protocols to support the sector at the European level.