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Make way for summer: Government taskforce says non-essential air travel ban should be lifted on July 1

  • Move would clear the way for foreign summer holidays and boost Irish tourism industry
  • DAA chief says Dublin Airport is 'strongly recommending' that passengers wear a face mask
  • Travel has already picked up, with 4,000 passengers flying from Dublin Airport on Sunday

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Dublin Airport. (stock photo)

Dublin Airport. (stock photo)

Dublin Airport. (stock photo)

A Government taskforce has called for the restrictions on non-essential air travel to be lifted by July 1.

The specially convened Aviation Recovery Taskforce also insisted the two week quarantine period of passengers arriving Ireland should also be ditched next month.

The move would clear the way for foreign summer holidays and also be a major boost for the Irish tourism industry.

The interim report warns that Ireland is significantly behind other EU countries in lifting restrictions on air passenger travel - despite having “equivalent or even better success” in containing Covid-19.

“If Ireland is to rebuild connectivity, effective ways to stimulate airline capacity, domestic and international routes will need to be explored,” it says.

It say the 14-day quarantine for passengers arriving in Ireland for non-essential journeys makes “discretionary travel challenging” and “inhibits business related travel, which is critical for the Irish economy”.

The group is compromised of representatives from airlines, the tourism industry, workers’ unions and government officials.

They said the Government must “urgently adopt” a code of practice for the aviation industry that has been developed by the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

They also called for confirmation that the wage subsidy scheme would be extend for the industry along with any other financial supports.

Transport Minister Shane Ross, who will bring the report to Cabinet on Thursday, said the taskforce has “very succinctly” captured the huge importance of the aviation industry to the Irish economy.

“It very clearly sets out the case for taking steps to be taken to begin opening up to international travel sooner rather than later. There are of course important public health issues to be considered, which the report acknowledges, and I will give the matters my priority attention and ensure that they are considered as a matter of urgency by the Government,” he said.

Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) Chief Executive Dalton Philips welcomed the report and noted it called for clarity on what needs to happen to allow non-essential air travel next month.

“Tourism, trade and foreign direct investment are key elements of the Irish economy and over the medium-term, aviation will play a major role in helping the Irish economy to begin to recover from the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Mr Philips said.

Chief Executive of Aer Lingus, Sean Doyle, said the pandemic crisis is having a “catastrophic effect” on the aviation industry.

“Ireland’s failure to take steps that other European Member States have already taken has exacerbated the crisis in Irish aviation. This is having a negative impact upon jobs within the industry and upon the industry’s ability to recover,” Mr Doyle said.

“As an island economy with a huge reliance on connectivity and mobility, Ireland needs the urgent recommencement of operations in aviation. Air transport will be an early enabler of economic recovery, allowing people, goods and investment to flow back into the economy. This will be critical to the recovery of the Irish economy,” he added.

Meanwhile, Dublin Airport is "strongly recommending" that passengers wear a face mask when travelling and will consider making it a requirement if there isn't a "high level of compliance," DAA chief Dalton Philips has said.

Mr Philips said passengers can expect to undergo a "different experience" when travelling through Dublin Airport due to new Covid-19 safety measures.

He told RTÉ's Today with Sarah McInerney: "We're strongly recommending that you wear a mask because if you're flying you have to have a mask. If you come to the airport without a mask we will have them available for sale, but really our recommendation is people travel with them on.

"Today, they won't be asked - where we're really asking for people to bring their own self responsibility to this and we're strongly recommending it.

"If we see that really there isn't the level of compliance then we would expect we may change that. We may have to put somebody on the door but at the moment we're saying, look, it's a level of self responsibility and on the aircraft, you have to wear one anyway."

Under the new safety measures passengers will no longer be permitted to have friends of family accompany them to the terminal.

"We won't be able to let people into the terminal and that's really part of the European guidelines actually the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) guidelines. So it is going to be a different experience.

"There's about 40pc of all the people who come in and out of the country are on holidays, about 25pc are on what's called VFR - visiting friends and relatives - so it's a big part of our business and you won't be able to go to the terminal and greet somebody coming off a long haul flight," he added.

One-way traffic routes through check-in will be in operation and passengers can expect that security will become a "slower process" because of social distancing.

He said before Covid-19 the airport could process about 6,000 passengers and through security, but can now only process 2,000.

Retail shops and the airport's bars will be open from June 29 but will be implementing the same public health guidelines required elsewhere.

"You'll be able to get a pint similar to what's happening in the rest of the country, obviously all our bars serve a meal. So, it'll be the same requirements," he said.

He said DAA has lost "about a million euros every single day" since March 17 and are expecting to make "somewhere between 750 and 1,000" permanent job cuts as a result of the pandemic.

"We operate in 16 countries around the world and at one stage we were closed in every single country so that financial impact is enormous and we've had to make some very difficult decisions."

Mr Philips added that staff have been given the option to take a career break, reduced hours or a voluntary severance scheme.

He said all staff's salary, including his own, has been cut by 20pc.

The airport experienced it's busiest day on Sunday with 4,000 passengers passing through its terminal, a major drop in comparison to its usual footfall of about 115,000 passengers it would normally see before the health crisis.

He said DAA are having to "significantly downsize" as it is estimated that it will take up to three years for passenger numbers to recover and that numbers will be at least 40pc lower next year.

Online Editors