Ryanair and Aer Lingus are cutting flights just weeks after resuming their operations as controversial Government Covid-19 travel restrictions continue to bite.
Both carriers restored parts of their schedules at the start of this month after travel bans left more than 90 per cent of their fleets grounded since mid-March.
Ryanair said it would slash 1,000 flights – with the potential loss of up to 200,000 passengers – from its Republic-UK schedules in August and September as Covid quarantines remain in place here.
Meanwhile, it also emerged that Aer Lingus will cancel some flights to European holiday destinations, including Spain, from July 20th, although the company did not comment on these plans on Tuesday.
Ryanair said the Republic had become the only EU country with a 14-day quarantine restriction on all arrivals from other states in the bloc, most of which it claimed had lower Covid-19 infection rates.
The company plans to cut 1,000 flights between the Republic and UK, mainly from Cork, Shannon, Kerry and Knock airports, but with some from Dublin, as it says the quarantine rule is damaging travel between the two states.
"Ryanair will significantly reduce its flights between Ireland and the UK in August and September, to reflect this suppressed demand," the airline said.
Its statement warned that this would cut visitors from the UK to Cork, Shannon, Kerry and Knock by 100,000 during the peak summer months of the tourism season.
Ryanair argued that it made no sense for the Government to treat nations such as Germany, Denmark and Greece as if they were suffering similar coronavirus infection rates to the US, Brazil and India.
"Irish citizens are being advised by their Government that they should not travel to and from EU countries, yet citizens of Northern Ireland can travel freely to and from the EU – via Dublin Airport – without any quarantine restrictions whatsoever," the airline pointed out.
Passengers must restrict their movements and limit contact with others for 14 days after arriving in the Republic. They must also fill in a form giving their location for that period.
The Government continues to advise people against “non-essential” travel. It will review all these rules on July 20th.
Ryanair added that the Republic’s tourism industry and workers travelling between the State and the UK were suffering unrecoverable losses as arriving EU passengers were forced to quarantine.
“This unique policy by Ireland, insisting on blanket quarantines with our European neighbours, is damaging the recovery of Ireland’s economy and our tourism industry, causing long-term damage to jobs in Ireland’s largest employment sector,” Ryanair claimed.
It added that the policy also signalled that the Republic was closed for business.
The airline called on the Government to remove all travel restrictions between the Republic and EU as a matter of urgency.
The carrier, Europe’s biggest, did not say if bookings on the flights it intended cutting had been lower than expected since it restarted 40 per cent of its schedule on July 1st.
Sources said Aer Lingus intended cutting some flights to holiday destinations as demand was weak.
However, they added that the airline was continuing with its existing limited services to the US from Dublin and to European cities including London, Paris and Amsterdam.
The Government decision to persist with the 14-day quarantine and other restrictions has continued to draw criticism, including from members of its Task Force on Aviation Recovery.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the bloc's centre for disease control jointly published safety protocols for air travel in June.
Within weeks of this, most member states allowed flights between other EU jurisdictions to resume.