Ryanair Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary has slammed new “shambolic” covid testing measures in the UK this afternoon. He claimed that the new pre-arrival coronavirus test rules will result in swathes of flights been cancelled. “The reality is that airlines, including Ryanair… and others, will essentially ground almost all of their flights for the foreseeable future,” he told BBC News.
“Therefore you’re going to collapse forward bookings for the airlines and the ferry companies and if we have no forward bookings we have to cancel the flights.”
He added that travellers making bookings subject to getting a negative test is a big “risk.”
“They’ll all cancel within four days or a day or two of departure and we then have to run flights that will have maybe five or 10 percent of the seats sold.
“We lose so much money,” he said.
He stated: “The only way we can survive this is to not operate the flights at all.”
For O’Leary, the solution is the vaccination programme, “not artificial travel restrictions.”
“Roll out the vaccination, as Johnson has said will be delivered, and you will have all of the highest risk groups – that is the over 75, nursing homes and NHS staff – by the middle of February, and thereafter they should be honest and say there will be no restrictions after that once we achieve that date,” he said.
“Now, whether it’s the middle of February or the end of February we don’t care but the people who need to make bookings for March needs to know whether there’s going to be any flights or not; there certainly won’t be fights in February.
“The Johnson government needs to tell us that.”
O’Leary isn’t alone in his doubts. CEO of travel consultancy, The PC Agency, Paul Charles, also voiced his concerns on BBC News today.
“I welcome the fact that the government is finally putting this in place,” said Charles, “as always, though, it’s the detail when you look at it closer that sometimes doesn’t stack up.
“For example, if you’re on holiday abroad at any point in the future and you have to get a test urgently within 72 hours, will you get those results back in time before you then have to get on your flight or your ferry or your Eurostar and return to the UK?
“There’s a lot of minutiae and detail that the government has not yet released about the exact nature of the test that they’re prepared to accept.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps this morning confirmed that most covid tests would be accepted in terms of PCR tests, lateral flow tests or so-called LAMP tests.
However, Charles explained he was anxious about the need for a “certain specification to be met”.
“I’m concerned this is a recipe for chaos at the check-in desk,” he said. “You can imagine turning up with your test certificate which you think is acceptable, but which in turn turns out not to be because it doesn’t meet the specificity that the government are looking for.
“It’s a recipe for chaos I think and, as always with these rules, they’re not properly thought out.”
Charles added that he understood these new rules would come into force from Thursday – although this has not officially been confirmed.
He noted this likely wasn’t long enough for transport services to suitably prepare nor enough warning for overseas infrastructure.
“There are a lot of countries overseas that don’t have anything like the medical resources that we see in the UK – they don’t have the test facilities, they don’t have the expertise to carry out these test,” Charles said.
“So if you’re abroad at the moment and you have to get one of these tests before you’re allowed back into the country, what are you supposed to do if the country you’re in cannot get your test in time or doesn’t have the right specificity?
“This is why you’re going to see Britons stuck abroad who are unable to meet these requirements.”