Anywhere But (Christmas At) Home

If you are from southern Italy but live outside, returning home for the holidays to family is becoming impossible with current airline prices.

If you are from southern Italy but live outside, returning home for the holidays to family is becoming impossible with current airline prices

When Christmas approaches, many workers and students from the North come back home, to the South. People cannot understand what Christmas looks like in Sicily, Calabria, Apulia: long tables full of delicious food, relatives screaming because they lost at a card game and the same old grandma asking you about your fiancé. And every year, the same story: “Grandma, do not worry, I am too busy with university.”

This idyllic image, from southern Italy, is essentially becoming a shock for many Southern Italians coming back home during the Christmas holidays.

First, flight prices interestingly rise by 360% between December and January. According to Federconsumatori, one of the most representative Consumer associations, many prices have dramatically increased. For example, the Rome-Reggio Calabria route was jacked up from 60 euros in November to 130 euros in December, while the Milan-Catania increased from 55 to 201 euros. Shockingly, the round-trip flight from Rome to Palermo could cost up to 700 euros.

It seems like it is cheaper to spend the holidays in New York, dreaming about a real white Christmas, visiting the Trump Tower and other beautiful places.

That’s probably the best bet for the average person. But here in Italy, it is not. People prefer to stay with their families, eating Panettone and nougat and continuing to try to appease their grandma about not having a fiancé. Without overlooking our uncle Peppino yelling about losing at card games again. That’s the truth, though. And tickets are so expensive that many people who have moved away from home simply give up on returning home for the Christmas holidays.

Many organizations are angrily standing up against this speculation. Owing to the withdrawal of Vueling from the Sicilian flight market, there are now only two air carriers — Alitalia and Ryanair — that carry all the traffic. Consequently, there is very little competition to keep prices low. And all the harmful side effects fall on the consumers.

Many congressmen and the Better Business Bureau are promoting a petition on to tackle this problem. Moreover, due to the media frenzy surrounding the matter, the Deputy Minister of Transport Giancarlo Cancelleri is personally taking steps to increase social services to disadvantaged populations by 2020. According to the consumer association Codacons, this is in fact a matter of urgency, since high and undue prices jeopardize freedom of movement.

In particular, students are asking for an agreement between the government and airline companies, in order to bring the prices back down to something reasonable. While Minister Cancelleri is working on the matter, tabling an amendment to the budget law, the Sicilian region needs to approve the territorial continuity, by which the Government can derogate from free competition in order to link remote areas of the country.

While people should hope for a better Christmas in 2020, it is a pity that the self-ironic air carrier of fantasy Terronair (playing on the word “terrone”, an offensive nickname northerners invented for Italians from the South) from the Sicilian comedy team “I Sansoni” does not exist. According to the founder, you can fly from 1 euro, because “watching a countryman hugging his family is priceless.” I’ve got my fingers crossed.

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