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Ryanair's O'Leary warns of large job losses due to 'shambolic' UK Covid policy

By Frank Prenesti

Date: Thursday 24 Sep 2020

Ryanair's O'Leary warns of large job losses due to 'shambolic' UK Covid policy

(Sharecast News) - Britain's aviation and tourism industries faced massive job losses unless the government provided more support and eased travel restrictions, Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary said on Thursday.
In scathing criticism of Downing Street's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, O'Leary said "literally hundreds of thousands" of jobs could disappear if the government failed to follow-up with economic support once its furlough scheme ends next month.

Finance Minister Rishi Sunak was expected on Thursday to announce new fiscal support measures, having abandoned his set-piece Budget next month to deal with the impending crisis. The European Union is also expected to launch of a scheme to coordinate travel restrictions in Europe.

O'Leary said if there was no replacement of the job retention scheme, staff not required would be put on unpaid leave. Job losses could not be ruled out, but Ryanair is "desperately working with our people to prevent them," he told Sky News.

"We want to keep our pilots and cabin crew employed and paid and we are going to have to have huge government assistance for that, otherwise I'm afraid they're all going to go on unpaid leave for the winter."

O'Leary also lambasted the government's handling of the crisis, saying: "(Prime Minister) Boris Johnson promised us a world-leading test and tracing system. It's a shambles, like many of the other promises he and his government have offered us."

He also called for the scrapping of the UK's air passenger tax for 12-24 months.

"The British government doesn't have any competence, never mind confidence," he told ITV in a separate interview.

"You know the example that we point to all the time is that the Italians and the Germans have been allowing flights, intra-EU air flights, since the first of July and have managed to keep their Covid case rates down around 20 per 100,000."

O'Leary claimed frequent changes to the safe travel list, where destinations like Portugal were given the go-ahead and within weeks had restrictions reimposed, had drained passenger confidence.

The EU travel scheme, scheduled to be finalised in mid-October, would set out common Covid-19 travel rules across the continent and impose restrictions on regions with high infection rates rather than countries.

Ryanair's forward bookings for November and December were around 10%, around a quarter of the normal level for this time of year, O'Leary said, adding that UK airlines were likely to fly around 30-40% of their normal capacity this winter with bookings were now around 20-30% of normal levels.


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