LONDON – In 2020, the Airports Council International (ACI) named Rome-Fiumicino “Leonardo da Vinci” Airport (FCO) as the best in Europe for the third time consecutively. In this article, we are introducing Rome’s biggest airport.

FCO is an Italian intercontinental airport located in the territory of the Municipality of Fiumicino, about 30 km west of the city centre of Rome. Handling 43.5 million passengers in 2019, FCO was the first Italian airport in terms of number of passengers and the traffic of over 199,000 tons of goods made it the second Italian cargo airport. 

In total, 105 airlines operate from Leonardo da Vinci airport which, together with Ciampino Airport (CIA), forms the Rome airport system with over 50 million passengers per year (2019), the largest in Italy and among the largest in Europe. Both airports are managed by the Aeroporti di Roma company.

Photo: FCO


In 2017 and 2018, passengers voted FCO as the best airport in terms of customer experience, choosing from European airports with more than 40 million passengers per year. In 2018 and 2019, the prestigious award of the “Best Airport in Europe” was awarded to FCO.

In 2020 the Airports Council International Europe judged FCO as the best airport in Europe, assigning it the “Best Airport Award”, and it is the first time in the history of ACI surveys that the award is awarded exclusively to the same for three consecutive years airport. 

This year, the award was given to FCO in the hub category with over 40 million passengers and focused on the measures and protocols adopted to contain the pandemic.

After two on-site audits in 2017 and 2019, Skytrax awarded 4 stars at FCO, a certificate of excellence that crowns our commitment to guaranteeing our passengers the best possible experience. In 2018, after an exceptional improvement in the ratings expressed by customers on our airport, FCO won the “World’s Most Improved Airport” award.

Terminal 1. Photo: FCO

History of the Airport

The history of the airport dates back to 1947, when, in order to cope with the increase in air traffic and the limited development possibilities of CIA, the Italian government sought an area suitable for providing Rome with a new airport. 

Three sites were initially identified: Magliana Vecchia, Castel di Decima and Casal Palocco. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation presented, in 1952, a new project for the construction of an airport in an area adjacent to the mouth of the Tevere river, with two perpendicular runways. The final project was approved in August 1958 and construction of the airport lasted 21 months.

The airport was officially opened on January 15, 1961, with two runways, and replaced the CIA, which remained in service for domestic flights and charter flights. The first airliner to land at Fiumicino was a TWA Lockheed Constellation; the plane came from New York and had made a technical stopover in Tunis.

During the sixties, Alitalia (AL) invested heavily in the new airport, building hangars and maintenance centers for its DC 8. In 1973, the third runway was opened and a new hangar was built to accommodate the Boeing 747s. In the same year, a law of the State conferred the management of the airport to the company Aeroporti di Roma Spa, which began to operate in 1974.

In 2009, the cogeneration plant was completed, which allows the airport to be self-sufficient through the production of renewable energy with a view to environmental protection.

On 21 December 2016 “boarding area E” was inaugurated for Extra Schengen flights, the first stone of which was laid on 12 March 2008. Boarding area E, whose total area is approximately 90,000 m², it is made up of two structures. The first building is an extension of Terminal 3, containing a large shopping arcade and also equipped with 8 boarding gates on the ground floor. 

The second building is a Pier dedicated to flights, equipped with 14 gates for boarding and disembarking passengers, as well as baggage handling and sorting systems. 

On 21 December 2016, the new glass facade of the T3 was also inaugurated, designed by Mario Bellini inspired by the original design of the airport and freeing the glass facade, which had been buffered by superfetations in the 80s and 90s.

Photo: FCO

Airport Details

On 25 October 2009, the airport adopted a numerical and alphabetic designation of the terminals and boarding areas respectively. From 1 December 2016 the boarding areas G-H have been renamed E31-44 and E51-61 respectively.

Terminal 1, dedicated to the national airline Alitalia and SkyTeam partners, is equipped with 94 check-in desks as well as several self-check-in stations. There are also two security control areas located at the two ends of the terminal. 

Before the checks there is the Alitalia Lounge, intended for Business Class passengers and SkyPriority guests, as well as a version for minors (Alitalia Lounge Young). In front of T1 and T3 there is the new HelloSky lounge, open to all, as well as the only lounge located in the non-sterile area, outside the security checks.

Terminal 3 is the largest ever and has 231 check-in stations. This facility operates most of the flights of the entire airport, especially those destined for the Non Schengen area which therefore require more accurate and punctual checks. 

There are several lounges in this terminal belonging to different airlines and alliances. Of particular note is the new Casa Alitalia Roma lounge located in the E31-44 boarding area as well as the Freccia Alata Borromini and Freccia Alata Le Navi lounges. 

The management company provides paid vouchers for entry to the lounges and Fast-Track for all those who do not belong to the airline’s exclusive clubs; in addition, it is also possible to purchase an exclusive service called “Welcome VIP” that provides for the accompaniment, or the pick-up in case of arrival, directly to the aircraft steps using a vehicle with driver made available by the company.

The airport also has a freight terminal, called Cargo City. It is located in the east area, near the long-term parking lots. The parking area of ​​the Cargo City is also used by larger foreign state aircraft, for which the size of the Ciampino runway is insufficient.

The airport has three runways: the 16L/34R and the 16R/34L, separated from each other by 4km and used mainly for landings from the north, and the 07/25 used mainly for take-offs in the direction west, due to prevailing winds.

Terminal 4. Photo: FCO

The Airport’s Doubling Project

The airport doubling project was presented to the public in December 2011. The project, called Fiumicino Nord or Fiumicino Due, provides for an increase in the airport’s movement capacity through the construction of a second terminal equipped with two new runways. 

This new plant would be connected to the current one through a people mover. The first new runway was scheduled for 2020, while the overall completion of the project is scheduled for 2044. 

The management company has announced that the capital necessary for the overall adaptation of the airport will be totally private, and are currently expected to be €12.1 bn; of these, €7.4 bn is expected to be used to complete the new plant. 

This expansion is considered necessary to face a future increase in demand, estimated by the same company at 100 million passengers per year in transit in 2044. The works envisaged by the project, however, were rejected with a negative opinion by the Via-Vas technical commission of the Ministry of the Environment, expressed in October 2019.

New boarding area. Photo: FCO

Incidents at FCO

The airport was the subject of some dramatic events. First of all, it was hit twice by terrorist attacks by Palestinian groups. The first in 1973 which saw the death of 30 people and the wounding of 20 others and the second in 1985 with the death of 13 people and with 99 injuries.

In May 2015, shortly after midnight, the airport was hit by a violent fire that affected Terminal 3. The episode did not cause any injuries or victims but, being a fundamental national and international hub, the entire air traffic suffered cancellations and delays. 

The inconveniences continued for about two months. Following the investigations, the cause of an electrical nature was ascertained, due to an air conditioner, whose overheating alarm was triggered several times.

Featured image: Rome Fiumicino International Airport (FCO) Terminal view and ATC Tower. Photo: Marco Macca – @aviator_ita