• Ryanair expect ‘very few travel restrictions across Europe’ by summer
  • Quote: ‘On the one hand Boris Johnson is telling us that all the high-risk groups will be vaccinated by the middle of February, yet at the same time they’re introducing travel restrictions. Why isn’t it ending in the middle of February.”

By Andrew Atkinson

Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary has demanded that the planned UK ‘test before travel’ scheme ends in February, the same time by which the most vulnerable groups will have been vaccinated for coronavirus.

The government is soon to require travellers arriving in the UK by air, rail and sea to produce evidence of a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of departure.

The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, is expected to announce more details, with speculation that the scheme will take effect on January 18.

O’Leary said it should last only four weeks, ending in mid-February, at the same time that the UK government’s will meet it’s target to complete the vaccination of the most vulnerable 14 million.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, he said Ryanair plans to run “about 10 or 20 flights” per day, compared with a normal daily schedule of 2,000, while the current restrictions apply.

O’Leary criticised what he called “government mismanagement” of the coronavirus pandemic.

“On the one hand Boris Johnson is telling us that all the high-risk groups will be vaccinated by the middle of February, yet at the same time they’re introducing travel restrictions.

“Why isn’t it ending in the middle of February, and why are you restricting people from moving thereafter?

“Bookings have collapsed, and air travel will collapse to and from the UK.

“We’re calling on Grant Shapps to tell us when this restriction is going to be lifted,” said O’Leary.

Flights to and from Spain, including Alicante-Elche airport, have been slashed in the wake of the latest coronavirus outbreaks.

Announcing the plan, the transport secretary Shapps said: “We already have significant measures in place to prevent imported cases of Covid-19, but with new strains of the virus developing internationally we must take further precautions.

“Taken together with the existing mandatory self-isolation period for passengers returning from high-risk countries, pre-departure tests will provide a further line of defence – helping us to control the virus as we roll out the vaccine at pace over the coming weeks.”

O’Leary said that by summer he expected “very few travel restrictions across Europe”.

Meanwhile thousands of passengers with existing bookings in February are being contacted to be offered the choice of rebooking, or a full refund.

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