Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan could immediately open travel throughout the European Union to 1.5 million fully vaccinated Irish people by "turning on a computer", Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said on Friday.
He was speaking after the airline reported that it flew 5.3 million passengers in June, 25 per cent more than the four million he predicted to industry analysts in May.
"We will certainly exceed eight million this month," he said, adding that the recovery in travel was well under way everywhere in Europe, except the Republic and UK.
Mr O’Leary sent an open letter to the Minister for Transport on Friday demanding that the State immediately issue EU digital Covid certificates to 1.5 million fully vaccinated people, allowing them to travel in Europe without tests or quarantines.
The EU launched the system, designed to restore freedom of movement in the union, on Thursday, but the Republic will not implement it until July 19th. All other member countries are operating it.
However, the airline chief maintained that the Irish system was ready and could issue the certificates, basically QR codes carried on smart phones, to fully vaccinated people who registered for their jabs through the Health Services Executive’s portal.
“All Eamon Ryan has to do is switch on a computer,” Mr O’Leary said. “We have to start somewhere, so why not start with the 1.5 million people who are fully vaccinated?”
He also warned that the Republic would be breaching European law if border officials delayed passengers arriving here with certificates issued by other EU states.
Mr O'Leary claimed that on Thursday border officials at Dublin Airport wrongly delayed passengers arriving from Belgium, Germany and Italy with QR codes proving they were fully vaccinated.
“It’s the law,” Mr O’Leary said. “We have to accept the QR codes issued by other countries, we cannot refuse travel to EU citizens coming in here with QR codes.”
He claimed border staff detained the passengers for an hour, and suggested that they would have to go to mandatory hotel quarantine, before the problem was resolved.
Mr O'Leary said the Republic had signed up to the system, adding that the European Commission was "livid" with the Government for failing to implement it.
A European Commission spokesman confirmed that the Republic had to recognise certificates issued by other member states from July 1st, even while it was not implementing the system for its own citizens.
The Department of Justice, responsible for the Border Management Unit, said it would not comment on specific cases. However, it pointed out that travellers coming here must produce negative results from PCR tests.
"The person may have been unable to provide evidence that they also had a negative PCR administered within 72 hours of their arrival in Ireland, " the department said.
Mr O’Leary warned that the State’s approach was inflicting further damage on the tourist industry, as it was shutting out more than 200 million fully vaccinated Europeans.
He also dismissed the National Public Health Emergency Team’s warnings about the Delta variant. Mr O’Leary said that it might lead to more cases, but was unlikely to result in more hospitalisations.
The airline chief pointed out that there were less than 50 Covid patients in hospital and 15 in intensive care.
Commenting on the passenger numbers, Mr O'Leary said that Ryanair was seeing strong bookings from Germany, the Benelux countries, Italy and Spain.
He noted that the digital Covid certificate appeared to be working well following its formal launch on Thursday and predicted that it should aid bookings.
Ryanair, Europe’s biggest airline, said earlier that a total of 8.1 million flew with it in the first quarter of its financial year, which ended on June 30th.
Last month’s total was almost three times the 1.8 million that travelled with the carrier in May. Ryanair operated more than 38,000 flights in June.