Q&A: The questions you will be asking amid Covid-19 travel and holiday uncertainty

Covid-19 has brought massive disruption to the holiday and travel sectors. Kevin O'Neill looks at some of the main questions ... and answers.

Q&A: The questions you will be asking amid Covid-19 travel and holiday uncertainty

Will I be able to go on holidays this summer?

It's a little unclear. The European Commission (EC) has mapped out a strategy to reboot tourism. It includes increasing travel between countries at a similar stage of the virus outbreak and with sufficient health service and testing capacity.

But the Irish government's advice has not changed. Tánaiste Simon Coveney yesterday said "there should be no non-essential travel out of Ireland", while Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the government is looking at mandatory quarantine for those who arrive in Ireland.

But didn't Ryanair announce they would be back to normal by July?

Not quite. Ryanair announced plans to restore 40% of their schedule by July 1, including about 150 routes from Ireland. But, they said, this is subject to flight restrictions being lifted.

Comments made by Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan could scupper the plans, at least in Ireland. Among the public health measures proposed by Ryanair are temperature checks and face masks for passengers, but Dr Holohan said these can give "false reassurance" and said the government advice remains valid: no non-essential travel.

Okay, but I've already got my holiday booked. Have I lost my money?

Well, the good news here is the EC has finally intervened in the refund row. In short, airlines will still have to offer customers the choice of a cash refund or a voucher, though the EC said they would support efforts to make vouchers a "more attractive" alternative.

If people accept vouchers, the EC wants governments to guarantee them so even if their airline goes under, the customer doesn't lose out.

If I can go abroad, what will travel look like? Is it safe to travel on planes or trains?

Steps are being taken to minimise the risk of the virus spreading. Ryanair said passengers will be subject to temperature checks, will have to wear facemasks, and will have to ask to use the toilet instead of queuing. Staff will also wear PPE. This largely tallies with the EC's recommendations, which also encourage social distancing, reduced capacity on planes and trains, and electronic ticket sales and seat reservations to minimise person-to-person interaction.

Q&A: The questions you will be asking amid Covid-19 travel and holiday uncertainty

Okay. Am I safe then?

Well, no. The EC says these measures will "mitigate" risk, not eliminate it. As long as there is a risk of infection, going on holiday represents a risk.

Are they removing middle seats? I heard that would help.

While a number of airlines appear to be exploring this option, it isn't really a runner. The EC has recommended airlines explore "the most appropriate allocation of seats" possible, but did not recommend removing the middle seat. Ryanair's Michael O'Leary has described leaving the middle seat empty as "mad" and "idiotic".

This seems like an awful lot of trouble for a holiday. Is it worth it?

The European Commission certainly thinks so. Tourism accounts for about 10% of the economic output of the European Union and about one-in-eight jobs. 

How long before things are back to normal?

Well, the EC strategy envisions restrictions on travel being lifted in a matter of months if the health situation continues to improve but it is unlikely to be "normal" then.

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