Safest airports for travelling through during COVID-19: First 'five-star' rated airport named

Rome's Fiumicino Airport is the first in the world to receive a five-star COVID-19 safety rating, based on an audit by air travel rating agency Skytrax.

Skytrax, which also runs the World Airline Awards and World Airport Awards, conducted an audit of the airport over three days in September.

According to Skytrax, the audit involves testing of "cleaning procedures and consistency, front-line contact points relating to hygiene and cleanliness, social distancing policies and implementation, the standard and use of staff personal protective equipment, and scientific validation of cleanliness and disinfection processes for the end-to-end customer journey through the airport".

The audit found COVID-19 hygiene policies at Rome Fiumicino Airport were well enforced, citing the airport's 40-strong 'Bio-Safety Team' charged with ensuring social distancing and mask-wearing compliance.

Skytrax also audited London's Heathrow, one of the busiest airports in the world, giving it a three-star rating.

While Heathrow was praised for its signage, mask usage and availability of hand sanitiser, Skytrax CEO Edward Plaisted said they found "a lack of consistency across different areas, both for cleanliness and expected control of social distancing."

Skytrax noted that non-travellers were farewelling friends and family in areas designated for passengers only, there was a lack of enforcement of social distancing and room for improvement on cleaning toilets and other common areas.

Skytrax has only audited four airports so far, all in Europe. The other two are Málaga Costa del Sol Airport in Spain and Nice Côte d'Azur Airport in France. Both received three-star ratings. Other airports around the world are scheduled to be audited, but no Australian airports are on the list as yet.

The World Airlines Awards, due to be held in July, were cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with Mr Plaisted it was not an appropriated time to be asking airlines to celebrate awards.

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Airfare comparison site Skyscanner has also adopted a COVID-19 safety rating for the airlines listed on its system, allowing users to search for flights based on the safety policies of the airline.

The ratings are provided by AirlineRatings.com and rate the airlines on the following factors: mandatory face masks, daily deep clean of aircraft, flight crew wearing personal protective equipment, sanitation packs for passengers and changes to food service for improved hygiene.

Skyscanner has also added a feature outlining airlines' fare flexibility and cancellation rules.

While major full-service airlines such as Qantas, Emirates, Etihad, British Airways, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines all received five-star ratings for COVID-19 safety measures, European budget carrier Ryanair scored just one star.

Ryanair's CEO, Michael O'Leary, has been characteristically outspoken about measures taken to control COVID-19, calling plans to implement social distancing on planes "idiotic" and blasting the UK government over its quarantine rules.

See also: 'Flexible fares won't last': Airlines reveal what flying will be like in 2021

See also: Think Australia's travel ban is fair? This will change your mind

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