People will be required to wear face coverings on Ryanair flights potentially until next year, the airline’s boss has said.
Announcing a return to a more normal travelling schedule for summer, Michael O’Leary revealed that the budget airline plans to run roughly 2,300 flights per day - around 80 per cent of its usual capacity.
But passengers will be asked to remember their face masks when they jet away, the chief executive warned.
Mr O’Leary said: “I would imagine at this point in time, we’re planning to continue to require mandatory face mask wearing on board our aircraft through the remainder of this summer schedule and next winter’s schedule.”
He said this could continue until the spring of 2022, unless there are new guidelines from European authorities.
Hopes rest on vaccination programme
Mr O’Leary is keen to get his planes back in the air, so Ryanair can start making money and selling tickets again.
The company has taken a massive hit over the last year, carrying only around 33 million passengers in the year to February, compared to 154 million in the same period a year earlier.
Airlines are now hoping that vaccination efforts can allow a return to fairly normal holiday plans this summer, with European destinations primarily back on the cards.
Mr O’Leary added that the airline could survive another lost summer of travel – however, he saw little reason for this to happen.
He said: “If you’re fully vaccinated, frankly, I would be very surprised if there was any legal basis for the UK Government preventing people travelling on holidays to other European countries, which will have caught up with the UK vaccine rollout programme by the end of May or the end of June.”
‘Recent surge in bookings’
“Families will be travelling to and from the UK, to and from Europe, going to the beaches of Europe on summer holidays that are richly deserved after the very fraught last 12 months,” Mr O’Leary continued.
“I’m pleased to report that we’ve had a recent surge in bookings, as the UK began to open up restrictions also, two weeks ago when Germany eased their restrictions on travel… we’ve seen a significant surge in bookings.”
Under current lockdown restrictions, it is illegal for anyone from the UK to travel abroad unless it's for an essential reason.
Leisure trips, holidays or visiting family or friends are not permitted and the earliest these will be able to go ahead is 17 May under Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown.
On 5 April, the government is set to announce the conditions by which international travel could be allowed, but it is thought that ministers will be cautious.
There has been a large spike in coronavirus cases in other European countries like France and Italy, while cases in the UK are currently low in comparison.
Speaking about the potential for holidays abroad in summer, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Tuesday 23 March that the government was “looking at” plans.
“I entirely understand people’s yearning to get away and have a summer holiday, and we’re looking at that question right now as part of the global travel taskforce, which will report in the middle of next month,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“The earliest that will take any steps will be May 17 but, obviously, we’re taking a cautious approach because we want any openings that we make to be irreversible.”
Additional reporting by PA.