Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary: UK quarantine ‘idiotic and unimplementable’

Ryanair’s (RYAAY) Michael O’Leary said Monday that the UK government has “mismanaged the crisis for many weeks,” adding that plans to impose a 14-day quarantine on certain international visitors, while exempting people arriving from Ireland and France, are “laughable.”

“As the government puts more meat on the bones of an unimplementable, unmanageable and unpoliceable 14-day lockdown, people will simply ignore something that is so hopelessly defective … and what we’re trying to encourage the UK government in our direct calls with them is let’s have some effective measures like face masks,” O’Leary told BBC radio.

The UK government’s new requirement that international arrivals not covered by a shortlist of exemptions self-isolate for 14 days could threaten Ryanair’s plans to restore 40% of its flights starting in July. Many travelers will be reluctant to fly if they need to spend time in isolation after landing in the country. But the government believes quarantine will help limit new coronavirus infections being reintroduced from abroad, as it begins to gradually reopen the economy.

O’Leary, who thinks the new measure will be dropped before the end of June, said it made no sense to quarantine international travelers, but not people using other forms of public transportation.

“This government is telling us you can’t fly unless you isolate for 14 days, yet you can go on the London Underground, you don’t have to isolate for 14 days. They’re making this stuff up as they go along and none of it has any basis in science,” he added.

O’Leary said there is “considerable consensus” that wearing face masks is effective in eliminating the spread of Covid-19, and that this is the only way to allow people to safely use mass transportation, including commuter trains and planes. “Without those people traveling, you can’t restart this economy,” he added.

As countries in Europe begin to ease lockdowns, Ryanair is forging ahead with plans to resume flights and has unveiled a raft of new measures that its passengers will need to observe, including wearing masks on board aircraft and in terminals.

Masks on airplanes: Where things stand on personal protection and social distancing

The airline, Europe’s largest by passenger numbers, usually operates low-cost flights to more than 200 destinations across the continent and plays a vital role in supporting the tourism industries of countries such as Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and France.

Ryanair posted a profit of €1 billion ($1.1 billion) for the year to March 2020, a 13% increase on the previous year. But it flagged a €200 million ($216 million) loss for the April to June quarter, and said it expects to carry just 80 million passengers during the current financial year, almost 50% fewer than previously targeted.

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