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Mail call for U.S. sailors and families stationed in Sigonella, Sicily, has been delayed a bit because mail now travels by ground instead of air.

The switch "adds a day extra to transit, but no more," said Chief Petty Officer Stan Healy, with the fleet mail service at Naval Air Station Sigonella.

Up until the week before Christmas, mail was delivered from Rome to Catania via Italy’s national carrier Alitalia, he said. But "due to airline strikes and uncertainties of Alitalia’s future," officials made the transportation switch, according to an all-hands message sent to Sigonella-based personnel.

Mail had been delivered to Sigonella six times a week in "single loads," Healy said. "Now it comes three times a week in double loads. It delays the mail by just one day."

Now, mail arrives by truck, going by ground from Rome’s airport to the U.S. Navy base in Naples first. Then the truck is placed on a ferry for the trip to Sicily, Healy said.

"For 90 percent [of personnel], nothing really has changed," Healy said. "It’s seamless." Those who might notice the delay are people who are expecting packages.

Italy’s struggling Alitalia carrier is the only authorized air carrier to fly military mail into Catania.

In January, the airline relaunched under new ownership, with Air France-KLM as a minority shareholder with a 25 percent stake and plans for Alitalia to merge with Italian rival Air One.

In November, Navy postal officials from Naples began trucking mail in secure containers, sealed with a serialized tag, from Rome to Naples because Alitalia had weight restrictions on the mail it could load into cargo. If there was too much mail, it sat at the Rome airport, referred to as "frustrated mail."

Military mail destined for Europe goes through the Defense Department Joint Military Postal Activity at JFK International Airport in New York and the Newark International Airport in New Jersey.

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