Foreign travel was back on the cards today after restrictions on flights were eased and airlines began to offer more services.
Ryanair had organised 1,000 flights, and at Dublin Airport there were more people traveling than have been for months despite calls from Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan to avoid foreign travel unless necessary.
Among those jetting off was Luke Parnell (26) from Ballyfermot. Luke was traveling to Amsterdam with some friends, and said he was looking forward to getting a break.
“We booked around four months ago, before all this lockdown happened, so we said we might as well go, then it (the travel ban) got lifted,” he said.
“I feel I’m young, fit and healthy, and I won’t be going near any elderly people and keeping myself quarantined. I just need to get out of here,” he added.
“I’m only going for three days. I need to relax. I was worried I might not be able to go, but you have to take the good with the bad. I’ll keep the mask on, keep the safe distance,” said Luke
“If I was being told ‘don’t fly, you’ll get your money back’ then I’d take the money back,” he added.
Michael and Eileen Clair, from Co Clare, were traveling to their holiday home in France, and they said they felt safe getting on a plane.
They said they would have travelled before now if they could.
“The travel (situation) is Tony Holohan’s opinion. The Government are saying they are going to open up routes and gateways to other countries, and people are still flying into the country. Flights came in from the UK all throughout the whole thing, so if they are allowing people to come into the country surely we should be able to leave the country as well,” said Michael.
“We’re traveling to our own house in France, so we're basically in a safe zone. We’re traveling to an area in France that has a very low instance of it (Covid) so I don’t see why we should have any major concerns,” said Eileen.
You need to leave to get rid of the fear
“All the precautions are in place and if you follow those guidelines it’s the same thing as getting on a bus or a tram,” said Michael.
“I do think we need to start trusting that the precautions are there. The reality is we have a certain ability to leave. You need to leave to get rid of the fear,” said Eileen.
“We were due to travel in May but we had to cancel that, so this is the first opportunity to go over,” said Michael.
“I wouldn’t be comfortable going to a crowded beach or parties, but this is a completely different situation. We have the potential to isolate if necessary when we come back,” Eileen explained.
Ingrid Dessert flew into Dublin this morning with her two sons Theo (8) and Louis (4).
She is visiting her parents in Tipperary and will spend a week here before she flies back to Paris and the two boys spend the month with their grandparents.
“I came today because the flights opened up in this direction. My mother was supposed to be coming over to me but as she is over 70 she is cocooning at home so basically I didn’t want her taking the plane so we took it instead,” she explained.
“It was good. Everything was in place that could have been done. There was a lot of hand sanitiser and distance, and everyone was wearing masks in the airport in Paris and it’s the same here, and there were only 20 people on the plane, so it was fine,” she added.
Speaking about the health advice recommending people do not fly versus the possibility of losing money if a person cancels their flights, Ingrid said it’s a “sticky decision”.
“Obviously you don’t want to be taking unnecessary risks. I can understand how Mr Holohan was talking about people not going abroad in case they pick it up while they’re there. I don’t think the travel itself is a big problem,” she said.
“I think the plane journey and the plane and airport experience is up to safety measures. After that its a case of if you’re going to be careful when you’re there at your destination because if you’re on your holidays you’re maybe going to be a bit more lackadaisical about safety measures, and it depends where you’re going to be and if where you are is going to be very strict or not. It’s a sticky situation,” Ingrid added.
The lack of clear direction from the Government on foreign travel has been criticised by the Consumer Association, who said Irish holidaymakers have been left in “a no-man’s land” and had their rights “trampled on” because they would have to forfeit thousands of euro if they cancelled flights while at the same time risking their health and the health of others by traveling.
And while that debate continued, Dublin Airport saw a lift in numbers early this morning.
“There has been an increase in flights today. Ryanair have significantly increased their number of flights and we have seen an increase in passenger numbers on that basis, but the numbers traveling are still very very low,” said Paul O’Kane, chief communications officer with DAA, the company who operate the airport.
“If you look at this year as a whole we are expecting about nine million passengers between Dublin and Cork airports. Last year we would have had 35.5m passengers,” he explained.
Decisions in relation to travel policies are a matter for Government. The Government sets the policy and indicated last week that it was looking at the notion of air bridges and air corridors and we await the Government decision on that,” he added.
“For our part what we have done is moved to make the journey as safe as possible for all of our customers, so you will see around our campus we have more than 960 hand sanitising units, we have about 10,000 pieces of signage for social distance, and we have more than 620 plexiglass screens at close-contact points. So we have worked to transform the passenger journey to protect our customers,” Mr O’Kane said.
He added that the DAA is losing around €1m a day at Dublin and Cork airports and in its overseas business because of the Covid lockdown.
“It’s had a huge impact. Aviation supports about 140,000 jobs in the Irish economy. It supports tourism right across the economy,” he said.