Ryanair CEO Blasts Quarantines In Favor Of Face Masks For Passengers

The CEO of Ryanair Michael O’Leary has called this week for the UK Government to adjust its quarantine rules in favor of masks and social distancing. On Thursday, the outspoken boss of the low-cost carrier echoed previous fears among travel operators. O’Leary said that the government’s quarantine was “unimplementable” and lacked a scientific basis.

Ryanair in flight
The CEO of Ryanair has said that 14-day quarantine rules have no scientific basis.
Photo: Tom Boon / Simple Flying

“Ineffective and unimplementable”

On 10th May, in a Prime Minister’s address, UK PM Boris Johnson announced that foreign overseas travelers would be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine upon entering the UK. The statement was overdue, given the UK’s lack of testing for coronavirus upon entry to the country. However, it may now be a little too late. As other nations open up, it seems that the UK might be locking down harder. Is implementing mandatory quarantine now a worthwhile pursuit?

One CEO thinks not. Michael O’Leary has often be branded as forthright in his comments. But this time it seems that he has spoken for the masses in suggesting that the UK Government’s latest plan will do more damage than good.

in-flight service, cabin crew with mask, passenger with mask
Ryanair believes that the use of face masks and social distancing is more powerful than 14-day quarantines. Photo: Ryanair

In a press release on Thursday (21st May), O’Leary said,

“14-day quarantines are ineffective and unimplementable. Requiring international arrivals to quarantine only after they have used multiple public transport providers to get from the airport to their ultimate destination has no basis in science or medicine.”

Instead, the CEO made a plea that the government focuses on other methods of preventing viral transmission. He said that face masks should be mandated on all transport, especially where social distancing cannot be adhered to.

Why is Ryanair so vocal?

Understandably, Ryanair shares the frustration of many operators within the travel industry. Since it was announced, it has primarily been thought that the overseas quarantine measures will severely harm the UK’s tourism industry. There will be very few passengers willing to holiday to the country if two weeks of their trip must be spent in isolation.

Ryanair on ground
Will passengers come to the UK with the restrictions? Photo: Ryanair

For airlines like Ryanair, this means it will likely see fewer travelers on its aircraft. That’s a legitimate concern since, for the past few months, a lot of its fleet has been grounded, and it’s been spending more money than it’s making. What airlines now need is support getting back up and running, yet it feels like the government’s latest plan may not be conducive to that outcome.

Countries elsewhere lift quarantine rules

Additionally, Ryanair’s distress is amplified by the fact that many European nations are gearing up to reopen and welcome tourists back. In its press release, Ryanair added the following:

“[…] quarantine measures […] are now being scrapped in most other European countries in favor of face masks and social distancing.” 

Cabin crew with face mask in ryanair cabin
Other European countries are opening up, and they only require face masks from travelers. Photo: Ryanair

With only 2,874 cases and 169 deaths, Greece is looking to open up again for tourists in June. Next month, it will remove all quarantine rules and conduct ad-hoc spot tests to check that the system is under control. Likewise, Italy will gradually open up from 3rd June but does not seem to issue quarantine for overseas travelers. Germany has also already started allowing UK, EU and Schengen Zone travelers to move through its borders without the need for quarantine.

Yet, just because some countries appear to be less restrictive, that’s not true for all countries the world over. Taiwan still requires travelers to undertake a 14-day quarantine when they enter its borders. This scenario begs the question: are the UK’s quarantine measures really “unimplementable”?

Will the UK’s quarantine measures work?

Upon arrival into the UK, travelers must provide an account of where they intend to carry out their 14-day quarantine. Subsequently, if they cannot give an address, the individuals will be required to stay in government-supplied accommodation.

Ryanair behind fence taxi
The measures do not work in line with airlines’ best interests. Photo: Tom Boon / Simple Flying

Altogether, upholding the measures will undoubtedly take some work, but while the UK remains in some form of lockdown, the rules should be implemented easily enough. This writer thinks that it’s not so much that the quarantine cannot be executed as much as it is that the quarantine does not work to serve the tourism industry and the interest of airlines.

Do you agree? Have your say in the comments.