Vatican Journalists Rebel Against Overpriced Airfare on Papal Trips

Pope Francis greets Alitalia's cabin crew as he boards an airplane with the Vatican's blason on the occasion of his trip to Sarajevo, on June 6, 2015 at Rome's Fiumicino International Airport. AFP PHOTO / ALBERTO PIZZOLI (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Journalists covering the Vatican have long complained against inflated ticket prices to accompany the pontiff on his journeys, but now they have united in common protest with a joint letter to Vatican officials overseeing papal travel.

The letter, signed by some 30 representatives of the major international news organizations covering the Pope and the Vatican, was triggered by the latest release of airfare to accompany Pope Francis on his upcoming trip to Fatima, Portugal, slated for May 12-13.

Addressed to the Undersecretary of State, Archbishop Angelo Becciu, the organizer of papal trips, Msgr. Mauricio Rueda Beltz and the director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, the letter expresses the journalists’ “surprise” on learning of the roundtrip airfare to Fatima.

At a cost of €1,738 ($1,877) for economy-class seating, the airfare has no relation to current market prices and “seems completely disproportionate to the distance of the flight,” the letter states.

One leg of the papal trip will be provided by Alitalia, while the return trip will be with Tap, the flag carrier airline of Portugal. A comparable nonstop flight with the same two companies purchased online at current market prices would run travelers just €232 ($251) in economy class, meaning that the cost to Vatican journalists is undergoing a markup of nearly 650 percent.

In their letter, the journalists urge the Vatican to “reconsider your fees, considering also the possibility of using a single company for the round trip to lower costs” or even to “explore the possibility of flying with low-cost airlines such as Ryanair, Easy Jet, Vueling, etc.”

“Newspapers and press agencies are living a moment of economic hardship and with these conditions it gets harder and harder to afford sending representatives aboard the papal flights,” the letter states.

The journalists hope to find a sympathetic ear from Pope Francis, who has been harshly critical of an economic system that “tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits.”

“I exhort you to generous solidarity and to the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings,” he wrote early in his pontificate.

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