Ailin Quinlan: Sorry, Micheal, boarding a jet is still a flight of fancy for me

Irish holiday makers are already booking holidays abroad this summer - however Ailin Quinlan will be keeping her feet on the ground...
Ailin Quinlan: Sorry, Micheal, boarding a jet is still a flight of fancy for me

WE’RE NOT ALL ON BOARD! Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary on one of his aircraft.

IF you’re fully vaccinated and could fly to the Mediterranean holiday hot-spot of your choice later this summer, without the need to quarantine, would you go?

Maybe, like Michael O’Leary believes, you’d shoot off to book a flight and invest in a new bikini and a bottle of sun-block. Or not.

Would you really be okay about getting into a tin can with a large number of other people, all of them breathing the same air for lengthy periods, even if you all have been (allegedly) vaccinated?

Would you be prepared to take it on trust that absolutely nobody on board your plane has managed to get their hands on a fake EU vaccination certificate or digital green pass?

And even if you were reassured that everyone on board had been fully vaccinated, would you be comfortable noticing that some of your fellow passengers had decided to do a Bandon Granny on it and not wear a mask in the crowded and cramped confines of your common or garden passenger cabin?

It’s being reported that holiday spots like Portugal, Spain, France and Italy are not expected to ask Irish tourists to quarantine on arrival. This is probably a significant development for potential holidaymakers. It all sounds good. Maybe you are the kind of person who could believe and trust in all of this.

Which would be helpful, because there’s quite a lot of stuff to believe and trust in — the level of transmission in the country you want to visit, for example, the pace of its vaccine roll-out, its quarantine rules, digital green certs, the prevalence of a number of scary variants, and the possibility of more dangerous mutants down the line, and, even, a State’s anti-Covid measures…

We’re all aching for things to be normal. We want to be able to casually meet up with friends for coffee and meals again and go on holidays and have real, live, fun birthday parties and normal weddings. But, still, would you board a plane and go? Or might you suspect that, to an extent, absolutely everybody — and here I mean everyone, from Nphet scientists to the government, its top civil servants, and the beleaguered public — is still flying blind to some extent in terms of what happens next here on the Covid roller-coaster?

Personally, just because the government says things are okay, er for the moment anyway, I wouldn’t be hopping on board an economy flight to Malaga anytime soon. Because the same questions just keep circling around in my head.

Will everyone on board really be vaccinated or is the next big problem going to be fake digital vaccination passes? Should and will even vaccinated passengers be required to keep their masks on while on board the plane? Because I bet you’ll have vaccinated people who will refuse to keep their mask on for two, three or four hours in a warm cramped cabin.

I bet there will be people who will point to the fact that most planes have excellent air ventilation and filtration systems, which supposedly remove coronavirus particles from the air about every six minutes... which means the only opportunity to breathe the virus in comes from the air that passes by you before it goes through the ventilation system. And that’s only going to happen if you’re sitting close to a person who’s sick.

And, of course, there can’t be anyone sick or infected on the plane because we’re all supposedly vaccinated. And around and around it goes...

Then there’s the next bit. One of the least organised parts of flying is the disembarkation process. Although airlines can control how passengers board a plane, disembarking can be absolute chaos because everybody rushes off the plane at the same time and mixes together with people arriving from other flights in the arrivals lounge or in baggage collection.

But, oh yes, we can all mix and nobody can get sick because everyone is vaccinated and, look, they have the digital certificates to prove it. And if we’re vaccinated ourselves, we’re okay, aren’t we?

Or could we somehow, next July or August, pick up and carry home a variant to a young adult who has not yet been vaccinated yet? Do we know anything for sure, really?

Given the recent massive shock about the solidity and validity of organisational and governmental cyber-security, what will a vaccination pass really represent in real terms when it comes to spending hours in a small confined space with large numbers of people you actually don’t know from Adam?

Maybe it’s just me, because some people are apparently very confident in the vaccination and certification systems. According to Michael O’Leary, Irish people are booking sun holidays already — in fact ,he has said the airline hopes to carry around four million people in June and between seven million and nine million passengers in July, which is, apparently, about 70% of the airline’s pre-pandemic levels.

Irish holidaymakers, he said, were already booking holidays in places like Spain and Portugal, and not just for July, but for June, while British, German, Scandinavian and eastern European customers were also booking more and more flights in anticipation of (relatively) normal travel patterns re-commencing on the back of vaccination programmes.

Mr O’Leary complained that the Republic’s quarantine rules still required passengers arriving from EU states like France or Belgium to stay in a hotel for a fortnight — which, he felt, presented an image that Ireland is closed to visitors.

Eh, anybody remember the Indian variant, which nobody really wants to discuss and which is currently spreading across the world because it’s even more transmissible than the madly busy British variant?

Anyone recall the images of corpses burning in hand-made pyres on every piece of empty space? The weeping outside of over-crowded unequipped hospitals? The bodies on the streets? The remains of Covid victims coming to earth on the banks of the Ganges? Would you be able to sit in a plane and manage not to worry about any of it?

I’m sorry, Michael, much as I have admired your business nous and your verve and laughed at your sheer brass neck over the years, I’m not with you on this one. I won’t be flying for a while yet.

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