Respected international air transport rating agency Skytrax has begun assessing coronavirus safety measures at airports around the world - and Rome Fiumicino Airport is the first to be awarded five stars.
The three other airports rated so far all received three stars - London Heathrow, Malaga Costa del Sol Airport and Nice Cote d'Azur Airport.
The Covid-19 airport ratings, which were first issued in August, involve Skytrax audit teams physically visiting each airport and carrying out hygiene analysis.
The Rome audit was conducted over three days in September, Skytrax said, and was based on 'a combination of procedural efficiency checks, visual observation analysis and ATP sampling tests [surface cleanliness analysis], with the consistency of standards being a key determinant in the final rating applied'.
Skytrax said that at Rome Fiumicino, the airport has 'a visible presence of cleaning staff' in customer-facing areas and that the airport 'is testing several UV sanitisation methods which further enhance hygiene levels at high-contact points such as elevators and escalators'.
Analysis of frequently touched surfaces 'indicated that where staff are applying maintenance, this is to a good standard, and the airport continues to assess how this can improve'.
In addition, in high movement areas, the airport has an in-house 'Bio-Safety Team' of 40 staff that facilitate social distancing and ensure compliance with face mask usage.
Skytrax said: 'The Covid-19 systems and procedures put in place across Rome Fiumicino Airport are meeting a rigorous standard, and Skytrax verified the frontline success of the implementation for keeping airport staff and customers safe.
'Skytrax identified that the general policies relating to Covid-19 procedures are well enforced at Rome Fiumicino Airport, with effective signage and information systems that have been implemented with excellent brand cohesion and intelligibility.'
It revealed that the daily passenger numbers are at approximately 30 per cent of the usual levels, but that the airport 'remains quite busy and vibrant'.
This, it surmised, was because operations have been consolidated to Terminal 3 for check-in and arrival, and Concourse Gates E for departure and transfer flights, coupled with Italy operating an open border and the country having fairly low Covid-19 rates.
Edward Plaisted of Skytrax said: 'Rome Fiumicino Airport has done an excellent job in delivering Covid-19 protocols that enable a safe environment for customers and staff. In the core areas of hand hygiene and social distancing, the airport has robust procedures in place, and importantly, this is being reinforced by a high-level of attention to terminal sanitisation at high-contact points.
'It is the consistency of these measures that is also notable, and this is an essential factor behind Rome Fiumicino Airport being the first airport in the world to receive the Covid-19 5-Star Airport Rating.'
Mr. Marco Troncone, CEO of Rome Fiumicino Airport, said: 'We are very satisfied with this new award as it once again is a significant international recognition of the efforts of the company.'
A Heathrow spokesperson said: 'Heathrow is always focussed on the safety of our passengers and colleagues. We are reviewing the findings to see what next steps we can take. Alongside extensive cleaning regimes and hand sanitising stations across the airport, we've taken a lead in mandating face coverings because we know it isn't always possible for our passengers to maintain social distancing in the airport.
'The next game-changer will be a form of passenger testing and we are continuing to work with the UK Government to establish this.'
Skytrax said that airports in the Middle East, Asia and North America are expected to be covered from October 2020, subject to border opening regulations.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.