Ryanair loses legal bid against Covid-19 travel restrictions


Ryanair has lost a a High Court case challenging the Irish Government’s Covid-19 travel restrictions. 

The budget airline had challenged the legality of travel advice published by the Irish Government in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ryanair claimed the travel restrictions imposed were ‘unlawful’ and amounted to a disproportionate interference in the rights of the airline and its passengers.

Today, Mr Justice Garrett Simons ruled that the Government had ‘acted lawfully’ in providing travel advice and public health advice in respect of the coronavirus pandemic on a non-statutory basis.

Vocal opposition: Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has warned that the future for airlines looks bleak

Legal challenge: Ryanair had challenged the legality of travel advice published by the Irish Government in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic

Legal challenge: Ryanair had challenged the legality of travel advice published by the Irish Government in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic

He said: ‘The Government is entitled, in the exercise of the executive power, to provide such advice to the public.’

Ryanair claimed the restrictions were unconstitutional and sought various orders and declarations, including an order setting aside the restrictions announced in late July. 

These included measures stating that people should not travel outside of Ireland, except for essential purposes, and that everyone should holiday at home this year.

Ryanair maintained that what had been published by the Government went ‘well beyond mere travel advice’ and represented the ‘imposition of restrictions on international travel.’

Judge Simons today rejected the airline’s argument.

‘Ryanair’s principal complaint is that, as a matter of domestic constitutional law, the Government, in publishing the impugned travel advice, exceeded its executive powers and trespassed upon the legislative power,’ he said.

‘These arguments have been rejected.’

Under the current public health guidelines, any person entering the Irish State is advised to restrict their movements for a period of 14 days.

This advice does not apply to travellers entering the Irish State from a small number of countries identified on the so-called ‘green list.’

In its ruling, the High Court said the information published on the Government’s official websites presented an ‘accurate portrayal’ of the legal status of the travel advice and public health advice.

‘The advice to avoid non-essential travel and to restrict movements on entry to the State is just that: advice,’ the ruling said.

‘The Government merely requests that persons entering the State from a country not on the “green list” restrict their movements for 14 days. As of August 2020, there had been no legal requirement to do so.’

Ireland has some of the strictest Covid-19 travel advice in Europe, advising against non-essential travel to all but four countries, namely Cyprus, Finland, Latvia and Liechtenstein. Those four countries, however, have also imposed restrictions on incoming passengers from Ireland. 

Last month Ryanair blasted Ireland’s top officials, claiming the nation’s airlines were being ‘locked up like North Korea’ as a result of the pandemic. 

Grounded: The airline industry has been decimated by global lockdowns during Covid-19

Grounded: The airline industry has been decimated by global lockdowns during Covid-19

Passenger numbers tumbling 

Earlier today, Ryanair admitted that it had seen passenger numbers drop by 64 per cent last month compared to figures at the same point a year ago.

The airline flew 5.1million people to destinations in September, compared with 14.1million in the same month last year.

Ryanair said it operated around 53 per cent of its normal September schedule with a load factor, which is the industry measure of how full the planes are, of 71 per cent.

Deals: Ryanair has been trying to tempt customers weary of lockdown to buy-one-get-one-free deals and seats for £5

Deals: Ryanair has been trying to tempt customers weary of lockdown to buy-one-get-one-free deals and seats for £5

In recent weeks, Ryanair announced that it planned to cut a further one in five of its flights scheduled to jet off this month, blaming ‘excessive and defective’ ongoing and ever-changing travel restrictions. 

In a bid to drive up passenger numbers, Ryanair has been trying to tempt customers weary of lockdown to buy-one-get-one-free deals and seats for £5. 

But, across the UK and Ireland, officials are imposing ever-shifting travel restrictions and quarantine measures on holidaymakers. Last night, it was announced that holidaymakers arriving in the UK from Poland, Turkey and and three Caribbean islands would have to self-isolate for 14 days from 4am this Saturday. 

Rapidly shifting goalposts are off-putting for many holidaymakers, who face an uphill struggle trying to get valid travel insurance and run the risk of losing thousands of pounds if their travel plans are scrapped or changed at the last minute.

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