Ryanair has clashed with Italy's air travel regulators, who have threatened to ground the airline's flights for breaches of Covid-19 safeguards.
Enac, Italy’s civil aviation authority, confirmed on Wednesday that it wrote to Ryanair for violations of its anti-Covid health regulations on board the Irish carrier’s craft.
Ryanair called the claims “factually incorrect” and said it complied fully with all anti-virus measures set by the Italian government and was doing everything to protect its passengers’ health.
Enac warned that if the breaches continue, it would consider suspending Ryanair flights to and from Italy.
The Italian regulator also said that it has raised the issue with the Irish Aviation Authority, the Republic's air travel watchdog.
Italy has allowed airlines to derogate from social distancing rules if they take other steps to protect passengers from coronavirus instead.
Enac’s statement points out that airline crew must enforce safeguards, including wearing face masks, on board each craft.
The safety body described Ryanair’s breaches as consistent. It also warned that it would remove the derogation from the carrier, forcing it to sell only half the seats on its craft.
Ryanair said that its procedures were in line with those set out by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC).
“All passengers are encouraged to check-in online, and the boarding process is now contactless to avoid unnecessary contact at airports,” the airline said.
“Ryanair has also implemented specific boarding procedures to avoid unnecessary gathering of passengers both at boarding gates and onboard the aircraft.”
The company added that it limits carry-on baggage to further limit passengers from congregating, offers limited inflight service and accepts only contactless payments on board.
“All Ryanair passengers and crew must wear face masks at all times throughout the flight,” the airline pointed out.
It noted that aircraft have air filters that remove airborne particles at the same rate as those used in hospitals.
“Ryanair complies fully with the measures set out by the Italian government and our customers can rest assured that we are doing everything to reduce interaction on both our aircraft and at airports to protect the health of our passengers when flying Ryanair,” the airline said.
Eddie Wilson, chief executive of Ryanair Designated Activity Company, the group's biggest subsidiary, told Irish politicians last week that the airline operated strictly to the guidelines set out by the EASA and ECDC.
He was arguing the case for the Government to lift its current travel restrictions and add all EU states and the UK to its “green list” of safe travel destinations. Italy is one of the countries on the list.
The EASA and ECDC jointly published the guidelines in May to aid airlines in restarting flights after Covid-19 travel bans across the EU had grounded them for months.
The Republic’s restrictions, which include a 14-day quarantine for travellers arriving into the State, and giving their locations to officials, are among the strictest in the EU.
Ryanair restarted flying 40 per cent of its schedules across Europe a month ago. It hopes to increase this to 70 per cent by the end of the year.