Watch: Passengers will have to wear masks on planes even if they’ve been vaccinated, Ryanair boss says
Ryanair passengers will be required to wears masks on the airline's planes this summer even if they have received a vaccine, the company's boss has said.
Giving evidence to the Commons' transport select committee on Wednesday, Michael O'Leary said face coverings will continue to be needed to travel via the company's aircraft.
He had been asked if people should worry about coronavirus variants possibly disrupting travel.
O'Leary said a combination of vaccines, seasonal weather changes and measures like masks would help to keep people protected this summer.
He said: "We would still require passengers to wear face masks on our flights, even if they have been vaccinated."
O'Leary said there was no way of establishing social distancing on an aircraft but that his company had flown successfully since the pandemic began by using face masks.
He also criticised the extent of government support for airlines during the pandemic, saying there was “much more to be done” to help the industry during the COVID-19 crisis.
He said the furlough scheme has been “welcome” but that “the government has been lamentable in providing other support”.
O'Leary said: “We had to refund over €1.5bn (£1.3bn) to customers in the last 12 months because our flights were cancelled by government order.
“There has been no support for that. We have received no support.”
He also criticised chancellor Rishi Sunak for failing to reduce air passenger duty, which he described as a “ridiculous” tax that “hits the poorest people hardest”.
He said: “No effort has been made by the government to roll that back, reduce it temporarily, or in fact – what we would call for – abandon it altogether, at least until traffic at UK airports recovers to pre-pandemic levels.”
He added: “There’s much more to be done on government support.
“The furlough scheme falls short of what needs to be done and it will be a very challenging and difficult return to normal operation or pre-COVID operation levels and profitability.”
O’Leary said Ryanair has been “essentially wiped out”, with just 27 million passengers expected in the 12 months to the end of March, compared with 150 million during the previous year.
The group expects to make an annual loss of more than €850m, he added.
He also told the committee the Civil Aviation Authority is taking “criminal proceedings” against Ryanair and other airlines because they carried passengers with pre-departure coronavirus test results written in Italian and German.
Government regulations state that test results must be in either English, French or Spanish.
After the hearing, a Department for Transport spokeswoman said: “We recognise the challenging times facing the aviation sector as a result of COVID-19, which is why we will do everything we can to help this critical industry.
“Protecting jobs is an absolute priority – we are providing around £7bn of sector specific support, which, as well as the extension of the furlough scheme and wider support through action on airport slots, loans and tax deferrals, will help businesses safeguard jobs.”
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