Ryanair’s boss has slammed European governments for failing to introduce mass Covid testing but “bailing out loss-making legacy airlines”.
Asked by aviation expert John Strickland about his view on government’s response to Covid at WTM Virtual this morning (Tuesday 10 November), Michael O’Leary said: “Did the politicians mishandle the pandemic, yes probably.
“I think it was inevitable that we had the first lockdown. What was worrying, though, is the way the government mishandled our first lockdown. It should have given us time to put in place mass testing.
“What’s been really concerning is the incompetence of European governments when it came to putting in place mass testing.
“Boris Johnson said we’d have a world-class testing and tracing system – like every Boris Johnson promise – complete and utter vacuous rubbish.
“After the first lockdowns every European government should have put in place the capacity to test 20% of its population on a weekly basis. Mass testing would have been the way out of this thing.
“Nothing was put in place for the winter so we’ve now walked our way in to a second set of lockdowns in Europe.
“Again, nothing will happen because they’re not fixing mass testing. But hopefully the vaccine will come along in its place.
“The worrying trend was the reaction of most European governments, which was to bail out loss-making legacy airlines.”
Elsewhere, O’Leary reiterated his view that European governments need to reduce airport taxes to “get people moving again”.
He suggested this was a better use of government money than “bailing out airlines”.
“We need governments to roll back on these ridiculous taxes,” he said at WTM Virtual this morning (Tuesday 10 November).
“If you really want to get tourism moving again in Europe, you need the British government to waiver or withdraw APD (air passenger duty) for three-five years.”
He suggested the likes of Spain’s Aena, the state-owned company that manages the country’s airports, should lower its airport charges for two or three years. O’Leary referenced Italy and France, too.
“Lower airport and environmental taxes for everyone and we pass it on to consumers and that’s what get’s people moving again.”
Asked whether he was optimistic the UK government would budge on APD, O’Leary said: “I hope they’ll see the light.
“The governments have a choice – do you want to recover this industry quickly to get young people back to work, or recover it slowly so that the legacy airlines can charge you €600 return air fares again?
“It’s an easy answer. I think there’s a reasonable prospect of getting the Spanish, Italians and the French to reduce their taxes.
“Most governments own these airports.”