Ireland's travel rules mean country is 'closed for business', claims Aer Lingus chief

The lack of travel into Ireland will have a 'profoundly negative effect' on the Irish economy, says Aer Lingus CEO Sean Doyle.
Ireland's travel rules mean country is 'closed for business', claims Aer Lingus chief
Aer Lingus chief Sean Doyle has criticised Ireland's travel rules as "more restrictive than what the EU uses" for passengers coming from outside the bloc. File Picture.

Aer Lingus chief Sean Doyle said Ireland stands alone in Europe when it comes to its travel restrictions imposed because of coronavirus.

Mr Doyle said the pandemic has had a catastrophic effect on the airline industry, and Ireland has been effectively closed off to business.

The Government published a green list of countries and areas last week that are safe to travel to and from, but the public is still being told to avoid non-essential travel.

The list excludes mainland UK, the US, and popular holiday destinations for Irish holidaymakers such as Spain. The 15 approved areas are Malta, Finland, Norway, Italy, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus, Slovakia, Greece, Greenland, Gibraltar, Monaco, and San Marino.

Mr Doyle told the Dáil Covid-19 committee that the pandemic has been "catastrophic" for the airline industry.

He said: "There is not a clear understanding of the scale of the crisis, or indeed its significance for the Irish economy and its future recovery. Ireland's travel restrictions are more restrictive than any other country in Europe, and Ireland now stands alone in applying a policy, while the rest of Europe has opened up for travel.

"The criteria being used for Ireland is more restrictive than what the EU uses for passengers from third countries entering the EU.

"The green list published last week means Ireland is effectively closed for business and this will have profoundly negative effect on the Irish economy and for aviation and tourism sector jobs.

"I started off by saying the Covid-19 crisis had brought about the greatest crisis of global aviation the industry has ever experienced. The situation in the Irish sector is even worse."

Ryanair chief executive Eddie Wilson said aviation in Ireland supports 40,000 direct jobs and more than 100,000 indirect jobs.

"If we don't have a functioning industry, all of these jobs are in danger," he said.

Mr Wilson said Ireland risks being left behind unless travel restrictions are eased.

"We are on the periphery of Europe, and shutting down connectivity will lead to stagnation and massive job losses in Ireland. That is a certainty, and we should wake up to it," he said.

Miriam Ryan, head of strategy with Dublin Airport Authority, told the committee that testing arriving passengers for Covid-19 would be "challenging".

"It presents challenges when it comes to space for holding passengers and where you keep them while they are being tested, and the availability of reagents when it comes to testing, and the availability of suitability qualified staff to undertake that testing," she said.

Ms Ryan suggested that passengers should be tested for Covid-19 when they leave the country of departure.

"There are a lot of challenges when it comes to testing passengers on arrival, so we have already mentioned the opportunity to test the passenger before they leave their country so that the first line of defence will be testing on exit so that passengers arrive here that have already been tested.

"They can show to the airline that they have been tested and a certificate to say they have been tested, and can show it to the border management unit in airports and ports."

Ms Ryan has said testing passengers before they leave a country has been trialled in Austria and some US states such as Hawaii and Alaska.

More in this section

Lunchtime News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up