Irish people booking sun holidays despite curbs, says Michael O’Leary

Ryanair chief dubs hotel quarantines ‘insanely stupid and ineffective’

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty

 

Irish people are booking sun holidays while the Government continues with “stupid and ineffective” Covid travel curbs, Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said on Monday.

Speaking to industry analysts after Ryanair reported an €815 million loss for the 12 months to March 31st, Mr O’Leary said the airline hoped to carry between seven million and nine million passengers in July, about 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

However, he warned that the Irish Government’s failure to plan for air travel’s recovery would leave the Republic lagging behind the rest of Europe.

“Irish people are already booking their holidays in Spain and Portugal for June and July,” Mr O’Leary said, arguing that the Government needed to catch up.

British, German, Scandinavian and eastern European customers are also booking increasing numbers of flights in anticipation of travel reopening on the back of vaccination programmes, according to Ryanair.

The airline expects to fly 1.6 million people in May, and its chief executive said passenger numbers could hit four million in June.

Mr O’Leary pointed out that the Republic’s quarantine rules still required passengers arriving from EU states including France and Belgium to stay in hotels for two weeks.

He added that if they drive across the border to the Netherlands, they will be welcomed into the State.

“It’s insanely stupid and ineffective,” he said. “All it does is present an image that Ireland is closed to visitors.”

Move from Dublin

Ryanair has moved aircraft from Dublin to bases in Spain, the UK and elsewhere and would not be moving them back this year, Mr O’Leary said.

He told analysts that an Irish aviation task force had given Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan a plan for air travel’s recovery last July but had “heard nothing” from him since then.

A spokeswoman for Mr Ryan said that he and the department were very conscious of the pandemic’s impact on aviation and its related industries.

“The Minister and the department have been engaged with other departments across government on how to reopen international travel,” she said.

“The Government is expected to set out the next stage of the process at its meeting next week, including likely revisions to the quarantine system and progress on the EU Digital Green Certificate.”

The Cabinet was due to discuss a memo on reopening international travel today, but it is understood that this was postponed following the crisis sparked by the cyberattack on the Health Service Executive.

New bases

Mr O’Leary stressed that it was not only Ryanair that was frustrated with the Government.

He noted that Irish rival Aer Lingus was moving planes to Manchester to sell transatlantic flights “that should be coming into Dublin”.

Ryanair will open new bases for this summer and winter, including Billund in Denmark, Riga in Estonia and Zagreb in Croatia. Mr O’Leary said airports had realised they needed to compete for business, as Europe is likely to have 20 per cent fewer short-haul seats following the pandemic.

The Irish group expects passenger numbers for this financial year, which ends on March 31st, 2022, to be at the “lower end” of the 80 million-120 million it has already forecast.

However, Mr O’Leary said traffic could reach 90 per cent of pre-Covid levels in September-October of this year, while it could potentially recover fully through the airline’s 2023 financial year.