Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary today revealed the depths of the cuts to his airline’s flight schedule from the UK and Ireland after the country was plunged into a third national confinement earlier this month.
The airline boss said the company would operate “about ten or 20 flights a day” from the “normal 2,000” from January 21 amid the country’s new travel restrictions.
However, he continued to say countries across Europe could see travel restrictions start to ease by the summer due to the massive vaccine rollout.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today program, Mr O’Leary, worth an estimated £ 3.8bn, said: ‘We take large bookings from people going on vacation somewhere.
“On the one hand, there is a huge upper peak in the third wave, but the vaccines are coming. If the UK is getting all high risk groups, the elderly, nursing homes and the NHS vaccinated by mid-February, why are you restricting the movement of people afterwards?
“I think the vaccine is a solution to this. If he’ll be in place before Easter, it’s too early to call, but certainly by summer. By the time we get to the school holidays, we will see few restrictions across Europe due to the rollout of these vaccines.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary to cut airline flight schedule from UK from 2000 to “around ten or 20 flights a day” due to travel restrictions
It comes as figures revealed that Heathrow Airport saw a drop of 58.8 million passengers last year, with just 22.1 million people traveling through West Airport from London in 2020, down 72.7 from the previous 12 months.
In December, passenger numbers fell 82.9% year-on-year to 1.1 million, while in November just one million people flew from Britain’s largest airport – a 88% drop from the seven million passengers recorded the previous year.
During the show, Mr O’Leary asked why the government had yet to release an end date for travel restrictions and said it was beyond him.
He continued, “This is one of the great contradictions of the government’s mismanagement of Covid travel restrictions.
“On the one hand, Boris Johnson tells us that all high risk groups will be vaccinated by mid-February and yet they introduced these travel restrictions, which meant that passengers arriving in the UK needed ” a negative polymerization chain reaction (PCR) test within 72 hours. arrival times.
“But there is no end date for the end of this restriction. Why it doesn’t end in mid-February with the vaccine rollout is beyond us.
“The challenge for the airline is that no one can make a reservation for two weeks in February and March if they have to wait until they get a negative PCR test four days before departure. Bookings have collapsed and air travel will collapse to and from the UK ”.
Mr O’Leary’s comments come just days after Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said he was welcoming pre-departure testing for travelers as a temporary measure amid the pandemic.
Mr. Holland-Kaye told Times Radio: “There needs to be a plan for what’s to come so that we can start to bring aviation back to a certain level of normality while keeping people safe.
“What we would like to see is that pre-takeoff testing becomes the norm as an alternative to quarantine.
However, Mr O’Leary said the move would not work for short-haul flights and “the vast majority of UK air travel”.
Mr O’Leary explained that no date had yet been set for the relaxation of travel restrictions. Pictured: Heathrow airport air officers in London walk past the Covid-19 test facility this month
The figures reveal that the number of passengers at Heathrow Airport fell by 58.8 million in 2020 amid a new strain of Covid-19. Pictured: A plane taking off from Heathrow Airport
He said: ‘It’s easy for someone at Heathrow who has spent most of the last six months trying to get the regulations to raise their fares so that they can charge airlines and our customers fares. higher to pay for its Covid losses. on pre-flight tests.
“It can have an impact on long-haul travel where people pay exorbitant fares and fly for specific reasons for several months.
“It doesn’t work for short haul and the vast majority of air travel in the UK is short haul, where people can travel on reasonably short notice.
“The challenge for us now as airlines is that we cannot cancel a flight within 14 days without paying huge compensation and we cannot run the risk of setting up many flights that we are running on. risk that many passengers will not travel. because they failed the PCR tests, what they did was just anchor all the airlines.
He added: “Today we are asking Grant Shapps to tell us when this restriction is going to be lifted, because if you vaccinate all high-risk groups by mid-February, these travel restrictions are not mandatory. ‘
His comments come after it was revealed that Heathrow Airport saw passenger numbers drop to 58.8 million last year following the Coronavirus pandemic.
In December, the number of passengers fell 82.9% year on year to 1.1 million, amid a new strain of Covid-19.
Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said: “The past year has been incredibly difficult for aviation.
“While we support the temporary tightening of border controls by introducing pre-departure testing for international arrivals, as well as quarantine, this is not sustainable.
“The aviation industry is the lifeblood of the UK economy, but it is fighting for its survival. We need a roadmap to get out of this blockage and a total waiver of professional rates.
“This is an opportunity for the government to show leadership in creating a common international standard for pre-departure testing that will allow travel and commerce to restart safely so that we can begin to deliver the Prime Minister’s vision of a global Britain. ”