Ryanair is on the hook for €1bn worth of passenger refunds, chief executive Eddie Wilson has told the Sunday Independent.
The Ryanair boss also insisted that the airline's plan to run 40pc of its schedule from July 1 was realistic and would be reflected in its Irish operation.
Wilson said he did not see the refund issue as a battle for the airline to hold on to cash. He insisted that 25 million passengers already entitled to a refund would receive either money or vouchers.
"It's not a battle. It's actually just volume related," he said, adding that it had been a mammoth logistical task.
"Ultimately, if people either opt for the refund and wait for cash or take a voucher, and don't use it after 12 months, they would get their money back anyway. We're on the hook for this money. It's just a matter of processes and getting it through. There are no battles. It's frustrating for our customers, but they will get their money."
Ryanair's plan to ramp up flights in July comes as the Irish Government said it may make its advice to travellers to quarantine for 14 days legally enforceable. That mirrors the tough stance in the UK. If the airline is forced to cancel the bulk of flights in July and August that would potentially add hundreds of millions of euro to its refund bill, said aviation sources. But if flights operate, passengers would not be eligible for a refund should they choose not to fly.
Ryanair's position contrasts sharply with DAA boss Dalton Philips's assertion, reported by the Sunday Independent, that Dublin Airport's capacity would need to be cut by 70pc because of physical-distancing requirements.
But Wilson said the fact Irish people were exempted from quarantine rules in the UK meant the rules "can't be based on medical evidence". He said guidance from the European Centre for Disease Control last week for airports would help restore passenger confidence.
"It's not just the holiday end of it. It's people trying to start to do business. How can they do business and quarantine themselves? Quarantines sound great if it's about putting your dog in a kennel or something like that when you're going on holidays. But not when there's potentially a couple of million people arriving a day.
"We have to come up with something that mitigates the risk and telling people that this quarantine is going to work sounds great in theory but it doesn't work," he said.
Aviation sources have told the Sunday Independent that the Ryanair plan to ramp up flights generated more questions than answers because the airline only had limited control over measures that could be undertaken at airports, such as temperature checks. There was no agreement as to who would carry out or pay for extra measures at airports, said the source.
"People are going to have to find a way whether it is airports, the Dundrum shopping centre or the cinema. But people can't stay at home forever," said Wilson.
Sunday Indo Business