If you are thinking of an Air Force One like airplane to bring the Pontiff from one country to another, then your imagination might have played up a bit too much. Pope Benedict XVI lands in Britain aboard an Alitalia airplane chartered for the Pontiff’s journey.

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church and head of state of Vatican visits Britain together with thirty senior officers of the church flying in from Ciampino airport to Edinburgh. Add to the equation the flock of journalists documenting the events.

The Vatican booked the Alitalia flight set aside from its normal routes for the pope’s visit. Alitalia pilots fly the plane while the passengers are served by the crew of the national airline of Italy.

Unlike the airplane of the U.S. President, the Pope’s airplane is not fitted with special amenities like a bar or a private office. Instead, his Holiness gets a row of seats to himself while the senior officials of Vatican occupy the next rows.

Tradition-wise, the Pope flies back to Rome carried by the airline of the country he just visited. This time though, Pope Benedict XVI will be flying back to Rome in the same Alitalia.  Some speculate that the churched snubbed the British Airways because of the Nadia Eweida issue. Eweida is a BA employee who was not allowed to wear a cross visibly in compliance with the uniform policy of the airline.

The Pope’s staff clarifies though that the use of the Alitalia plane for the return trip was more of a practical choice with the impending strike of the cabin crew of British Airways.

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