Long way to go before air travel opens up: Cork travel agent highlights safety concerns 

Long way to go before air travel opens up: Cork travel agent highlights safety concerns 

A Ryanair Boeing 737 preparing for takeoff from Cork Airport. Details of what routes will operate from July onwards will be determined and announced by the respective airlines presently, said a spokesperson for the airport. Picture: David Creedon

Cork travel agent and CEO of the Irish Travel Agents Association Pat Dawson believes there is much work to be done before any large scale return to air travel in the coming months.

Yesterday, Ryanair announced a plan to restore 40% of its flight schedule from July 1, with a range of new safety measures including fewer checked bags, temperature checks at the airport and mandatory face masks or coverings.

Mr Dawson said he is concerned about Ryanair’s plans, saying that it is “too early” to return passengers to airports without “precise information on what happens to a consumer from the time they go to the airport to the time they sit on the aircraft”.

“Who is going to take the temperature of people, because that will have to be done,” he asked.

“What’s the protocol going through the airport? Who’s going to marshal the two-metre social distance? Who’s going to marshal the boarding?”

“Naturally enough, there’s a vested interest in getting all airlines flying quickly but it has to be safe for the consumer and chances can’t be taken because as the Government pointed out the last thing we want is another spike,” said Mr Dawson. “I don’t believe all this can be sorted with six weeks to go.”

Cork Airport is currently operating two flights per day to and from London Heathrow and Stansted airports and passenger numbers are down 99% since the onset of the global pandemic.

Mr Dawson said that the “good thing about Cork Airport” is its size.

“Smaller airports are probably going to be that bit better off because you have less numbers and you can have staggered flights, but everything has to be 100% for the consumer,” he said.

A spokesperson for Cork Airport said: “The safety and security of our passengers and staff is always Cork Airport’s key priority and it has been throughout the current Covid-19 pandemic.

“Cork Airport has complied fully with these policies at all times and continues to do so.

“Details of what routes will operate from July onwards will be determined and announced by the respective airlines presently.”

Mr Dawson also said more detail is needed to see if Health Minister Simon Harris’s proposal of new laws to regulate people travelling into the country through ports and airports can work.

 
 

Mr Harris said yesterday he wants to see new laws introduced, after one-third of people arriving at Dublin Airport recently did not fill in forms properly about where they would be staying.

“I do think we need to take further measures to toughen up at our airports and ports,” said Mr Harris.

“We already have the form that you have to fill in, you can be contacted to check if you are self-isolating.

“But I would like to underpin this by regulation so that it is the law of the land.”

Mr Dawson said forms with information about where passengers are travelling from and where they will be self-isolating should be “compulsory” and filled out before people set foot in Ireland.

“It shouldn’t be a case of a choice of filling out a form because the consequences of bringing the virus from other countries, and particularly countries who haven’t got on top of it yet and the UK is certainly one of them, are too high,” he said.

Cork City South East councillor Kieran McCarthy said that he worries for people who are reliant on airlines for essential commuting.

The Independent councillor and member of the EU Committee of the Regions commutes from Cork to Brussels regularly on the Cork Airport to Amsterdam route and takes the train from Schiphol Airport to the Belgian capital.

“There’s a lot of people who are travelling to oil rigs in the North Sea and people who work in London for the week and come back, there’s a whole commute culture out there that has to be looked at,” said Mr McCarthy.

He said that he would have “no problem” with temperature checks and wearing a mask and “will do anything that makes a situation safer” when commuting in the future.

He said that he cannot see the successful restoration of 40% of Ryanair flights by July as people will be reluctant to travel unless essential until “the tide on this virus is gone out a little bit more”.

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