Mount Etna eruption forces closure of Catania airport as dozens of flights are cancelled

Ahead of Italy’s biggest bank holiday, an ash cloud from the eruption has caused flight cancellations, delays and diversions.

Travel to and from Sicily has been majorly disrupted after Mount Etna erupted on Sunday evening.


The majority of flights in and out of Catania airport are cancelled, with the airport saying it will reopen at 8pm this evening.

Etna is Europe’s most active volcano and Italian authorities say it has entered a “pre-alert” phase, moving from warning level F0 to F1.

The chaos comes a day before Italy’s biggest national holiday, Ferragosto.

If you are due to fly in or out of Catania, read on for advice from a journalist based in Sicily.

Catania Airport closed after Mount Etna eruption

Airport officials say that all flights have been suspended at Catania until 8pm today. Catania is Sicily’s second biggest airport and operates domestic and international flights.

“Due to Etna’s eruptive activity and fallout of volcanic ash, flight operations are suspended until 08:00 pm,” the airport said on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

It has advised passengers to check with their airline for information about their flight.

Catania normally handles around 200 flights a day and had to close at 2.38 am following the arrival of a flight from Casablanca. The airport is around 50km south of the volcano.

Catania airport: Where are flights being diverted to?

Catania airport’s departures and arrivals boards show that approximately 95% of flights today have been cancelled.

However a few flights are still arriving or being diverted to other airports in Sicily.

Sicily is the biggest island in the Mediterranean, therefore the airports are spread out. Catania and Comiso airports are on the island’s east coast.


Whereas Palermo airport, the biggest on the island, is on the west coast. It is a 4-5 hour drive from Catania to Palermo airport.

A few flights are also being diverted to Trapani airport which is 4 hours drive from Catania. 

How to travel between Sicily’s airports

Mount Etna has been going through a particularly active period for the last 4 years. Eruptions lead to Catania airport closing once every few months.

The airport does not typically provide transportation assistance to passengers when it is forced to close.

Unfortunately Sicily does not have a good public transport system. There are coaches between Catania, Palermo and Trapani but these mostly operate from the city centres rather than the airports.


Bus company AST operates inter-city coaches, their timetable is available here.

There are car hire companies at all of Sicily’s airports.

What is the advice from airlines?

Ryanair has warned all passengers travelling to and from Catania on 14 August that they could face “possible delays, diversion or cancellations to flights”. The budget airline says that affected passengers will be notified as soon as possible.

EasyJet are the main airline flying from the UK to Catania. They have so far cancelled flights to Catania from Bristol, Edinurgh and Gatwick. They are diverting some flights to Comiso airport, a 2-hour drive from Catania airport.

Dozens of flights to Catania from other airlines across Europe have also been cancelled.


Where else are flights being disrupted by the eruption?

Comiso airport, around 150km from Mount Etna, was affected by the eruption too with flights showing delays earlier this morning. Air traffic heading for the island of Malta is also being redirected to avoid the ash cloud from the eruption that has spread across Sicily.

European air passenger rights mean that travellers whose flights are heavily delayed or cancelled due to the eruption are entitled to meals and hotels as appropriate.

Cancellations, delays and disruptions could continue at short notice – especially if more eruptions occur.

Sicily’s summer of travel chaos

The closure comes just days after Catania reopened following a major fire in its terminal building in mid-July.

The fire led to thousands of flights being cancelled or diverted, with many tourists opting to cancel their holidays altogether.

Airport authorities have been criticised for their slow and disorganised response with hoteliers saying around 40,000 nights of accommodation have been lost since the fire.

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