Shane Ross: Air travel will not return to pre-coronavirus levels until 2023

By Aoife Moore

Air travel will not return to pre-Covid levels until 2023, according to the Minister for Transport.

Speaking in the Dáil, Shane Ross painted a bleak picture for the future of Irish aviation and said there were hopes at earlier stages in the crisis that next year might see a return to business as usual, however that is no longer the case.

"There is an increasing consensus that a recovery will be slow with some predicting that 2019 levels of traffic will not be achieved again until 2023," he said.

Mr Ross also told the chamber is not possible to say when the mandatory 14 day isolation period for travellers into Ireland will end.

Currently, people travelling into Ireland are legally required to complete a Covid-19 passenger locator form, making it mandatory for travellers arriving into the airports and ports to tell the State where they will be self-isolating for 14 days in order to stop the spread of the virus.

The current mandatory self-isolation period has been flagged as a major concern for the tourism and hospitality sector, as many will not travel to Ireland because of the issue.

"I think it will continue for as long as the public health advice is that it should continue," Minister Shane Ross said.

"I don't know, I'm sorry but I don't know what the answer to that question is because it will be a NPHET issue, and it'll be up to them to clarify in relation to that."

Pre-booked holidays also hang in the balance as confusion continues to reign over whether Irish people can travel abroad.

Ryanair boss Micheal O'Leary has said publicly that Ryanair will be re-launching around 90% of their pre-Covid19 flights from July 1. In an open letter, Mr O’Leary urged the Minister for Health Simon Harris to scrap "the completely ineffective" self-isolation period.

Mr Ross said he would not be making comments on Mr O'Leary's conduct.

"I don't make any comments on that, except to say that everybody in this particular space has a particular axe to grind and has a particular interest," he said.

"Michael O'Leary is in the business of selling seats on aeroplanes.

"That means that that is his priority as Minister and his government. We have to take note of the industry's views of course because it's so important to conductivity to Ireland, but we also have to take note of the health authorities fears as well.

"I have to bear in mind the fact that health considerations are paramount and that we have to count to one with the other.

"At the end of the day, the government has recognised that the health of the nation is the most important factor that we have to consider when dealing with the current crisis."

In a recent Dáil committee, Jim Breslin, the Sec-Gen of the Department of Health said that Irish people should not enter into any financial arrangements for booking holidays.