Government accused of ‘not grasping’ urgency of situation facing Irish aviation

Aviation taskforce member says group told Government to decide immediately on dropping quarantine after first meeting on June 12th

Ryanair’s Eddie Wilson dismissed as meaningless Government plans to allow air travel only with countries with similarly low rates of coronavirus. Photograph: Bloomberg

Ryanair’s Eddie Wilson dismissed as meaningless Government plans to allow air travel only with countries with similarly low rates of coronavirus. Photograph: Bloomberg

 

The Government’s air travel taskforce warned two weeks ago that an immediate decision was needed on the Republic’s two-week Covid-19 quarantine.

The Aviation Recovery Taskforce called in a report this week for the Government to axe the rule requiring incoming passengers to quarantine for 14 days by July 1st, warning it deterred business travellers and tourists.

Taskforce member Conor McCarthy, chief executive of aircraft maintenance business Dublin Aerospace, said on Wednesday that the the group told the Government to decide immediately on dropping the quarantine after its first meeting on June 12th.

“But the Taoiseach came out the same day and said we’re not going to make a decision on that for the next two weeks,” Mr McCarthy added.

He pointed out that the taskforce decided on its recommendation within an hour of sitting down to its first meeting in light of an EU Commission call for member states to open their borders without restrictions.

Mr McCarthy said on Wednesday that many in Government appeared “not to grasp” the urgency of the situation facing Irish aviation, which has been largely grounded since March.

He explained that airlines were profitable for four months of the year, June, July, August and September.

“June is already gone,” he warned, adding that airlines and the tourist industry that depended on them needed some indication of the Government’s intentions if they were to rescue what was left of the holiday season.

Mr McCarthy argued that the Government risked further disadvantaging Irish airlines that have received no State aid against competitors such as Air France and Lufthansa, which have received billions of euro from their governments.

“For some reason there seems to be a belief that Ryanair and Aer Lingus can do well on their own and without any passengers,” he said.

Mr McCarthy stressed that the politicians who were unwilling to lift the quarantine were the same people who stood on the hustings at elections declaring that the Republic was a small, open trading economy.

Playing catch-up

Eddie Wilson, chief executive of Ryanair Designated Activity Company, the Irish group’s biggest airline, declared that the Republic was “playing catch-up with the rest of the European Union, and needs to get on with it”.

He said the EU Commission published recommendations designed to restart air travel last May that other member states were following. “What’s different about us?” Mr Wilson asked.

He warned that anything indicating the Republic was not open for business threatened to damage the recovery from the economic damage inflicted by Covid lockdowns.

Mr Wilson dismissed as meaningless Government plans to allow air travel only with countries with similarly low rates of coronavirus infection, dubbed “air bridges” by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

He argued that this would result in travel being allowed from one member state while barring it from another, which could potentially spark retaliatory moves against the Republic from those countries from which travel was barred.