The daa has said it could be as far away as 2025 until the aviation industry gets back to pre-pandemic levels.
Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, daa Communications Officer Paul O’Kane welcomed the resumption of travel from mid-July, and said they will be working with all airlines to resume service as quickly as possible.
Mr. O’Kane said flight numbers have been down 83%, with passenger figures down by 95% as a result of the pandemic.
“Realistically, to get back to where we were in 2019, you could be looking at 2024-2025. People seem to have this notion that as we reopen, a switch will be flicked and we’ll have all this connectivity and capacity back again. That’s not the case,” he said.
Mr. O’Kane said while a lot of the focus has been on recreational holidays, the return of travel will see families reunited.
“So much of the focus on this is about sun-holidays. I would argue this isn’t as much about sun-holidays as it is about reuniting mothers with their sons,” he said.
“This is about reuniting families that have been separated for a very, very long time. People haven’t seen grandchildren; they haven’t seen people who’ve been married; there’s all sorts of families which have been displaced all over the world,” he added.
Mr. O’Kane said Ireland is very fortunate to have two strong home-based airlines, adding that they will have to work really hard to get routes back.
He said details still remain to be worked out with regard to the Digital Covid Cert for travel, adding that clarity is needed on its implementation and how it works.
Meanwhile, Eddie Wilson – chief executive of Ryanair, has said that the Common Travel Area with the UK should be restored from June 1, and non-essential travel within the EU restored from July 1.
Mr. Wilson said that bookings with Ryanair have trebled over the last six weeks, with many Irish people booking to fly from July 1 and many favouring flights to Spain.
Mr. Wilson told the News at One that people are moving freely between Ireland and part of the UK – Northern Ireland – and that it is ‘nonsense’ to inconvenience air-travellers who can travel to the UK via Belfast.
He said there is a “complete blind spot” in government on this issue, and that the NHS in the UK has said the vaccines are working against the Indian variant of COVID-19, as well as reducing spread and improving outcomes for those who are infected.
“We have this idea that we can maintain a block on the Common Travel Area, when we have a 500 kilometre land border with the UK that has been open throughout the pandemic,” he said.
He claimed that people are moving freely across the border, and from Northern Ireland can move freely to the UK – so it is ‘nonsense’ to ‘discommode’ air travellers by keeping Irish airports closed to UK flights.
Mr. Wilson said hotels in Northern Ireland are full this weekend, largely from people south of the border travelling to Northern Ireland.
He said it is not about public health advice, as the vaccines are working.
On international travel, Mr. WIlson said Ireland should align itself with Europe and follow the lead of Italy, Spain and France – which are allowing unrestricted EU travellers from June 9.
Mr. Wilson said the Digital Covid Certificate should be in place sooner, and the need for mandatory quarantine for travellers from France, Belgium and Luxembourg removed.
He said that Ryanair plans to have most European destinations open this summer, but with less frequency as it gradually re-builds its schedules.