Tourism and aviation players demand von der Leyen end EU travel chaos

Industry seeks new Europe-wide testing protocol to end travel restrictions

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen: urged to ensure the commission implements an EU testing protocol to avoid quarantines and reopen borders.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen: urged to ensure the commission implements an EU testing protocol to avoid quarantines and reopen borders.

 

Groups representing Irish and EU aviation and tourism want European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to end travel chaos in the bloc by introducing new Covid testing protocols.

Organisations backed by Ryanair, the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association, Aer Lingus parent International Airlines’ Group, DAA and regional carriers such as Dublin-based ASL Aviation Holdings, have written to Ms von der Leyen welcoming the commission’s proposed Covid-19 travel restrictions framework.

However, their letter points out that many member states may be reluctant to take co-ordinated action, potentially killing any chance of recovery from the pandemic’s impact on their industry.

“This chaotic situation requires your immediate personal involvement, as president of the European Commission,” the letter states. “We are thus urging you make this issue a top priority and calling on you to address this issue directly with the heads of state and government.”

The industry urges Ms von der Leyen to ensure the commission implements an EU testing protocol to avoid quarantines and reopen borders.

Internal market commissioner Thierry Breton appeared to back the call when he said on French radio on Tuesday the EU should prevent border closures in a “second wave” of the pandemic.

Green list

The 25 organisations include the European Cockpit Association, which represents pilots’ unions; Airlines for Europe, backing the bloc’s biggest carriers; Airports Council International Europe; and European Regions Airline Association (ERA).

Signatories include Andrew Kelly, head of communications at Dublin-headquartered ASL, who is president of ERA.

Their call comes a day after the Government tightened restrictions in the Republic requiring travellers from countries not on a “green list” of states to isolate themselves for 14 days following their arrival.

The Government imposed a new green list from Monday, September 21st, limited to just seven countries, Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia,­Lithuania and Poland.

The organisations’ letter points out that tourism and travel employ 27 million people across the EU and generate about 10 per cent of the bloc’s wealth.

“Extreme travel restrictions – in particular quarantines – are anything but risk-based,” the letter states.

Industry and medics

“They are not an effective way to fight the epidemic, and the European Centre for Disease Control formally advises states against such restrictions.”

The organisations want the commission to bring together member states, industry and medics to develop a testing protocol.

“This would bring the travel and tourism sectors in line with what is being done for all other sectors in terms of risk management, for which states are not following a zero-risk strategy,” the industry argues.

ERA director general Montserrat Barriga followed the letter with a warning that airlines were laying off thousands of people, who had little chance of being rehired.

“We did see the beginning of a recovery for a few weeks but in August border closures and quarantine brought an end to that recovery,” he said.

“European traffic is still down 45 per cent now on 2019 and that is simply unsustainable.”

Mr Barriga stressed that hundreds of thousands of jobs would be lost if the EU did not tell member states that borders must be opened and quarantine provisions removed.