Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has predicted a removal of all restrictions on flights to Spain, Portugal and Greece, declaring ‘the vaccines are coming, people are going on holiday’.
O’Leary said that whilst it is ‘certainly foolhardy’ to book a getaway in April or May, he believes ‘Europe will catch up’ in June, July and August – allowing for holidays ‘to places like Corfu, Santorini, Ibiza’.
Speaking to Susanna Reid on Good Morning Britain O’Leary said: ‘It would be certainly foolhardy to be booking in April and May.
‘But with the school holidays coming around in June, July and August and the successful rollout of the vaccines led by the UK, Europe will catch up dramatically I believe, in the months of April and May, particularly with the Johnson Johnson vaccine rollouts.’
Predicting which sunny locations Britons will be permitted to holiday this year O’Leary said: ‘I think you’re going to see the removal of all restrictions on short-haul flights between the UK and Spain, the UK and Portugal, the UK and Greece.
‘Last week we announced 26 new routes that we launch at the end of May so that we can bring people from the UK to places like Corfu, Santorini, Ibiza.
‘The vaccines are coming, people are going on holiday.’
In February Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined May 17 as the earliest date for international travel to resume in his roadmap out of lockdown. It is currently illegal to travel abroad, or domestically, for holidays.
Domestic travel to self-enclosed accommodation for one household, such as a caravan park, is due to start from April 12. Full domestic travel, with the use of B&Bs and hotels, won’t resume until May 17 at the earliest.
O’Leary said that whilst it is ‘foolhardy’ to book a getaway in April or May, he believes ‘Europe will catch up’ in June, July and August – making way for holidays ‘to Corfu, Santorini, Ibiza’
O’Leary said that nobody was waiting for refunds from Ryanair, except a ‘tiny number of passengers’ who were ‘duped’ into booking with ‘third-party agents’
On Monday Matt Hancock also offered hope for foreign holidays insisting they ‘may well’ be able to happen this summer, as airlines called for rapid Covid tests to be used to help ‘reopen’ the industry.
The Health Secretary said ‘the door is not shut’ on international travel over the coming months, suggesting it will depend on evidence about vaccine effectiveness on variants.
Today Susanna Reid, who was joined by co-presenter Ranvir Singh, asked O’Leary if it was accurate that Ryanair owes £20million in unpaid refunds for bookings made through ‘member travel agents’, as was claimed in a report by the Irish Travel Association.
O’Leary said: ‘Firstly, I wouldn’t believe anything the Irish travel agents tell you, we don’t have any bookings from Irish travel agents. People are supposed to book only online or directly as consumers.
‘It’s illegal for [travel agents] to make bookings on our website. We don’t allow third party to make bookings.
O’Leary stressed that Ryanair flight bookings should not be made through third-party agents as it was illegal and would delay any refund taking place if necessary
The government’s roadmap suggested May 17 is the earliest date international travel could resume – but ministers have warned there are no guarantees
‘That’s one of the great challenges the airlines have faced in recent years – it’s been exposed by the coronavirus pandemic – is that we have all these intermediate agent screen scrapers going in making bookings and then overcharging our customers and giving us fake customer contact details or payment details.’
France is not expected to be added to the UK’s ‘red list’ of travel ban countries
O’Leary stressed that Ryanair flight bookings should not be made through third-party agents as it was illegal and would delay any refund taking place if necessary.
The interview became heated on the topic of refunds as O’Leary and Reid began to talk over each other, with O’Leary asking Reid ‘Let me finish! I want to answer the point! Can I answer the point?’
O’Leary continued: ‘We have refunded all of the people who have applied to us directly for refunds, they’ve either got cash refunds or vouchers.
‘There is nobody left in the queue waiting for refunds, except a tiny number of passengers who were duped into making bookings through the screen scraper or third-party agents, where we have fake contact details and fake password details and we can’t contact the customer.
‘We’ve had to set up a new system on our website, a customer verification form where those customers can come to us directly and get their refunds. We are not allowed by the regulator or by law to give a customer’s refund to a third-party intermediary whether it’s an Irish travel agent or it’s an online screen scraper.
‘All refunds have been processed. All vouchers have been processed. Nobody is out there waiting for a refund unless you have failed to apply to the customer verification form.
The comments come as Airlines call for rapid Covid tests to be used as standard for international travellers to ‘reopen’ the industry.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) union has published research claiming that using rapid tests could work as well as a 10-day quarantine policy.
And it said the cost and time required to use proper lab-based PCR tests to test travellers would keep the holiday industry on its knees.
Passengers make their way to the departure gates at Heathrow’s Terminal 2 amid the coronavirus pandemic
A family of four could face a testing bill of £1,600 to use privately-bought tests, the IATA said, and it warned passenger numbers could fall by two thirds because of this.
Rapid swab tests, however, were significantly cheaper and faster to use and could help stem airlines’ losses by half, it suggested.
The IATA did not call for a total overhaul of the current policy of a 10-day quarantine with three tests, but wants the rapid swabs to be accepted as standard by officials.
Earlier this week forty MPs, including former Cabinet minister Karen Bradley, sent the Prime Minister a letter urging him to avoid delaying the ban on travel.
The group of cross-party MPs warned that the country would not fully recover without a thriving tourism, travel and aviation industry and told the PM that foreign holidays were essential for the country’s economic rebound.
They stressed that it was ‘paramount that the restart of international travel provides the opportunity for businesses in the aviation, travel and tourism industries to begin their long journey back to recovery’.
‘Let’s get Britain flying now!’: Business chiefs and MPs write letter to Boris Johnson warning him that more than a million jobs are at risk unless he speeds up plans to fully reopen our skies
- Business leaders & MPs united in plea to Boris Johnson to resume foreign travel
- Warned millions of jobs at risk if Prime Minister did not get Britain flying again
- PM has pencilled in May 17 as the earliest date when foreign travel could resume
By John Stevens and Michael Blackley for The Daily Mail
Business leaders last night united with MPs to plead with the Prime Minister to resume foreign travel.
They warned that more than a million jobs were at risk if Boris Johnson failed to get Britain flying again.
In letter to the PM, they said firms across the country faced devastation if planes were kept grounded.
Business leaders have united with MPs warning the Prime Minister that millions of jobs are at risk if Britain does not get flying again. Pictured: Passengers arrive at Heathrow last summer
The PM has pencilled in May 17 as the earliest date when foreign travel could resume, but there are fears he will push this back as the continent is hit by a third coronavirus wave.
Mr Johnson will give an update on his plans on Monday, but sources say he is likely to declare it is still too early to set a firm date for when borders can reopen.
Following pleas from a group of 40 MPs on Monday, industry leaders from the British Chambers of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses and UK Hospitality said the economic recovery would be put at risk if overseas trips remained illegal.
‘If we cannot start flying again this summer, the further damage to UK businesses large and small would be severe,’ they wrote.
The PM has pencilled in May 17 as the earliest date when foreign travel could resume, but there are fears he will push this back as the continent is hit by a third coronavirus wave
‘Aviation is vital to the UK’s economic recovery from the pandemic. Our air links are not a frivolous luxury.
‘They connect Britain with the world and link British products, experiences and expertise with billions of potential buyers overseas.’
The business groups said the success of the vaccine rollout ‘should allow us to push on with rebuilding the businesses, jobs and livelihoods that have been hit so hard by our forced isolation’.
Their warning was boosted by research showing the economy will take a £47.6 billion hit if Mr Johnson delays the resumption of foreign travel from May 17 until the end of the year – the equivalent of £200 million a day.
The study commissioned by Airlines UK, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Heathrow, Gatwick, and Manchester Airports Group warned this would put more than a million jobs at risk across the economy, including 125,000 in the international tourism sector.
The report stated that ‘plotting a clear course out of lockdown for the aviation industry… is vital not only for the survival of the industry itself but also for the recovery of the wider UK economy’.
‘The UK is, fundamentally, a trading nation and has been for centuries. Its wealth and prosperity are inextricably linked to its ability to interact with global markets. Without air travel, this ability is severely limited.
‘It needs to be remembered that air travel is not just about holidays. A significant proportion of passengers travel for business and air transport also plays a central role in moving cargo around the world.
‘The UK’s ability to develop export markets, to source materials and expertise from overseas, to attract foreign direct investment, and to bring international visitors to the country is dependent on air travel.
‘The longer that the reopening of international travel is delayed, the greater the economic cost will be to the UK’s economy.’
Following pleas from a group of 40 MPs on Monday, industry leaders from the British Chambers of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses and UK Hospitality said the economic recovery would be put at risk if overseas trips remained illegal. Pictured: Passengers at Heathrow in February
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said: ‘There are tens of thousands of jobs dependent upon aviation and restarting travel, and the sector cannot survive another lost summer with little or no revenue.
‘We can do this proportionately and in a risk-based way – it’s not a question of opening up the border to every country out there.
‘Where it is safe to do so we need to start the process of opening up. We cannot with a straight face talk about Global Britain without aviation.’
Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon fuelled suspicions Mr Johnson will delay plans to resume foreign holidays, saying: ‘The four-nations discussions we’ve had in recent weeks would make me sceptical about whether international travel would resume in England from May 17.’
Dear Prime Minister
Aviation is vital to the UK’s economic recovery from the pandemic. Our air links are not a frivolous luxury.
They connect Britain with the world and link British products, experiences and expertise with billions of potential buyers overseas.
Pre-pandemic, some 49 per cent of the total value of UK exports outside of the EU travelled by air – a majority on board passenger aircraft.
If we cannot start flying again this summer, the further damage to UK businesses large and small would be severe – hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk, hospitality devastated, exporters unable to move their goods.
A safe, managed restart is the way forward, with restrictions remaining on high-risk countries, but air links re-established where the risks of variants is low and where the UK’s vaccination success should allow us to push on with rebuilding the businesses, jobs and livelihoods that have been hit so hard by our forced isolation.
- Adam Marshall, director-general, British Chambers of Commerce
- Craig Beaumont, chief of external affairs, Federation of Small Businesses
- Kate Nicholls, chief executive, UK Hospitality
- Miles Celic, chief executive, TheCityUK
- Jace Tyrell, chief executive, New West End Company
- Clive Memmott, chief executive, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce
- Kurt Janson, director, Tourism Alliance
- Duncan Edwards, chief executive, British American Business
- Joss Croft, chief executive, UKInbound
- John Dickie, director of strategy and policy, London First
- Paul Barnes, chief executive, Association of International Retail