Aviation industry needs decisiveness from Government immediately, says airline chief
Ryanair flights to some 24 destinations currently account for some 81pc of all business at Cork Airport which has seen all other airlines cut services during Covid-19. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP via Getty
Ryanair has re-iterated its warning that it will close its operations at both Cork and Shannon Airports for the winter unless the Government adopts the EU traffic light system for international travel.
This system would allow passengers fly from Ireland to a greater range of countries during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a memo sent to all Ryanair staff at Cork and Shannon airports, Diarmuid Rogers, head of Ryanair flight operations base management, warned that “if there is no change, we regrettably expect the base closures at Cork and Shannon to proceed” even though a final decision has not yet been made.
“The Government has not only failed to implement its own taskforce’s recommendation of July 7th but has now made matters worse by delaying the implementation of the EU’s ‘traffic light’ system until at least October 13th,” said Mr Rogers.
“Instead of adopting the EU ‘traffic light’ system . . . the Government updated the failed Green list by removing six countries with lower Covid case rates than Ireland. This disjointed and mismanaged approach is putting the jobs of our pilots and crew at Cork and Shannon at risk.”
Last week, Ryanair chief executive Eddie Wilson met Oireachtas members from Leeside at Cork Airport and briefed them on the scenario facing the airline with regard to continuing its operations from both Cork and Shannon in the light of the government’ s policy on foreign travel during Covid.
Mr Wilson said the Government needed to adopt the EU rules on green, orange and red list countries and it needed to include travel to the UK which is critically important for Ryanair’s operations from Cork where it accounts for 50 per cent of the company’s business.
Mr Wilson said the aviation industry needs decisiveness from the Government immediately as Ryanair currently has no bookings for November.
“I can’t stress enough the seriousness of the situation – we’re flying aircraft empty at the moment and if these flights go [from Cork and Shannon] it’s going to be very difficult to bring them back – traffic is back to the levels of the early 1990s as it is,” he said during his visit to Cork Airport.
“The rest of Europe is investing in their airports to attract traffic and the government here have an aviation task force since July 7th and they’ve done nothing, they haven’t added countries since then that have half the rate of Ireland - we are sleep-walking into oblivion here.”
Mr Wilson said that Ireland accounts for approximately 8 per cent of Ryanair’s business and it was very frustrating for the company to be able to arrange meetings with transport ministers all over Europe but was unable to arrange a meeting with Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan.
“The government set up an aviation task force, representing all the stake holders, all the airlines, all the airports and came up with a report under the chairmanship of Chris Horne and that report has all the answers but it’s sitting on the minister’s desk since the 7th July and that is inexcusable.
“And it has all the answers there in terms of what we need to do with the green list, what we need to do regarding testing and what we need to do with regional airports and what sort of supports we need to put in place but nothing has happened.”
Mr Wilson said the government needs to stop looking at international travel as “the bogeyman” and instead adopt the EU list of green countries and set up proper Covid-19 tracking and tracing to allow people to start travelling to and from Ireland again.
He said the government should immediately adopt the system in place with the European Centre for Disease Control with regard to curbing the spread of Covid-19 or otherwise, airlines such as Ryanair and Aer Lingus will not be able to main the current level of connectivity from Ireland.
Cork Airport Head of Communications, Kevin Cullinane confirmed to The Irish Times just last week Ryanair’s importance to the airport where its flights to some 24 destinations currently account for some 81 per cent of all business at the airport which has seen all other airlines cut services during Covid-19.