Travel rules bar aviation chief Willie Walsh from visiting home

Airline industry group head says State must open to vaccinated travellers

Irish aviation chief Willie Walsh says the Republic's stringent Covid-19 travel curbs bar him from visiting home.

Mr Walsh, head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), says the Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan should open the State to vaccinated travellers.

"The idea that Ireland is forcing vaccinated travellers from the US into hotel quarantines at a cost of €1,800 for 12 days is a scandal and that should be stopped straight away," he said.

Switzerland-based Mr Walsh, who is fully vaccinated, said on Thursday that the Republic’s tight travel restrictions had prevented him from visiting home for more than a year.

“I have not been able to get back to see family and friends,” he said. “I cannot travel to Ireland if I have got to self isolate.”

The former chief executive of Aer Lingus and British Airways owner, International Airlines Group, welcomed news that EU governments have agreed to open travel to vaccinated US residents.

He suggested that a federal ban on European travellers, imposed last year by the Trump administration, could soon be lifted.

The Government will discuss plans to reopen the Republic to travel when it meets next Tuesday.

Hotel quarantine

Ministers will debate whether to extend the controversial hotel quarantine rules when they end in mid-June.

Earlier this week, the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said non-essential travel was "against the law" and indicated that this may not change until August.

Aer Lingus said this week it would close its Shannon Airport base with the potential loss of 126 jobs, blaming travel restrictions it described as the most stringent in Europe.

In an address to politicians, Mr Walsh described hotel quarantine as “repressive” and warned it sent a dangerous signal that the Republic was closed to visitors.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas