Tourism faces tough five years, says Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary

Airline chief claims Coalition ‘sitting on hands’ as firm relocates some capacity

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary: ‘Eamon Ryan doesn’t give a sh*te about aviation.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary: ‘Eamon Ryan doesn’t give a sh*te about aviation.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

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Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary has warned the Irish aviation and tourism industries are facing “four to five years” of difficulties.

He also said Ryanair is moving “10-20 per cent” of its Irish capacity to other European countries where aviation is recovering faster.

The businessman sharply criticised the Government’s handling of aviation during the Covid-19 pandemic and accused Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan of doing “nothing for the sector for 13 months”.

Last night, the Minister rejected the claims and said the Government was determined to restore lost connectivity.

Mr O’Leary said the idea that domestic holidaymakers could save Irish tourism was “bizarre” and claimed the sector would face serious trouble unless the State fought to win back routes to boost inbound tourism. He accused the Government of being static in the face of “aggressive” competition from other European countries that were incentivising airlines.

‘No agenda for transport’

“I would be very worried for Irish tourism. There is no agenda for transport in this country. Ireland is an island on the periphery of Europe. Aviation and tourism should be front and centre of Government policy . . . but we cannot get any sense out of the Department of Transport,” he said.

Mr O’Leary said the industry had submitted a recovery plan to Mr Ryan which included measures such as giving airlines rebates on charges, but the report had “sat on the Minister’s desk”.

He said the Government was providing “no help” to the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), which runs Dublin and Cork airports, to give it the firepower to incentivise airlines. Mr O’Leary said Ryanair had sought discounts on fees to maintain services at Cork airport but it had got “nothing”.

Aggressive courting

“Other governments are being reasonably aggressive in courting airlines. We’re in Croatia today announcing new routes. We’ll be in London next week. But Ireland is sitting on its hands. Eamon Ryan doesn’t give a sh*te about aviation,” Mr O’Leary said.

In response, Mr Ryan said the pandemic had devastated tourism and aviation, not the Government. He said the Government had given €300 million in supports such as wage subsidies to the sector, with €150 million in lending supports. He said the supports included €80 million for regional airports, and a €50 million package for DAA that could be used to reduce charges.

“DAA chose not to deploy it until the sector was back up and running. There was no point reducing landing charges with a 90-95 per cent reduction in passenger numbers,” said the Minister. “Our connectivity is vital because we are an island and we are determined to bring it back.”

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