Planned resumption of air travel a ‘green light’ for flight bookings

Airlines have criticised delays in Ireland reinstating Common Travel Area with Britain

The resumption of non-essential travel within the European Union in July has given people a long awaited “green light” to book flights but airlines have criticised the delay in reinstating the Common Travel Area (CTA) with Britain.

The Government announced non-essential international travel could resume from July 19th, for passengers within the EU, and between other countries not subject to “emergency break” measures to guard against new variants.

Mandatory hotel quarantine will continue for incoming travellers from designated red list zones, where passengers have not received Covid-19 vaccines.

In a statement, Aer Lingus welcomed the return of non-essential air travel, which it said would allow people to "enjoy a much needed holiday over the latter weeks of the summer."

“Consumers have finally been given a green light to begin booking future travel,” a spokeswoman said.

The airline said the timing of restarting air travel would not facilitate a return to significant levels of travel “during the critical summer months”.

“It is also disappointing that the reopening of the Common Travel Area is delayed and that EU approved rapid antigen testing has not been approved as a standard of pre-departure testing,” the statement said.

Ryanair called for the CTA to be reinstated and for European travel to be brought forward to the start of July, in line with consumer demand and with other countries.

“There is no reason for restricting the Common Travel Area when people are pouring across the border in both directions,” said the airline’s chief executive Eddie Wilson, citing media reports of “chockablock hotels” in Northern Ireland.

“You can move all around the UK now; it makes no sense whatsoever,” he said. “This has been going on for over a year; it’s either public health or it’s not. We have an open border with the UK.”

With Spain holidays particularly high on Irish travellers’ agendas, Mr Wilson said bookings are up – more than tripling in recent weeks – but that travel should be brought to the beginning of July.

“The rest of Europe is moving already…they are booking in their droves and there is no reason why Ireland shouldn’t be exactly the same.”

Ryanair's somewhat predictable disappointment at what it sees as half-measures was shared by Stena Line, another company pushing for renewed connectivity with Britain.

“We are disappointed. We had asked for priority and we still hope it can be given to easing restrictions between Ireland and Britain,” said spokesman Simon Palmer, adding that there was “no logic” in preventing fully vaccinated people from travelling from the UK.

Andy Pike of trade union Fórsa, which represents aviation workers, said the resumption of air travel was "the first sign of light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel."

There is “clearly an appetite” for international travel, and also travel between Ireland and the UK at present, he said. “You can fly from London to Belfast and come here by rail or road, that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency,” he told RTÉ Six One News.

The Dublin airport authority, which has experienced a catastrophic decline in passenger numbers during the pandemic, said the reopening of international travel was about more than mere recreation.

“This isn’t really as much about sun holidays as about mothers being able to see their sons,” its spokesman Paul O’Kane told RTÉ. “This is about reuniting families who have been separated for a very, very long time,” he said.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times