The Ryanair CEO calls the socially distancing measure “idiotic”.

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When the Irish government asks airlines to leave the middle seats on planes empty to allow social distance, an airline CEO promises to have them paid. Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair, said that if the rule is implemented, the government should pay for the empty seats – otherwise its planes will not fly.

In an interview with the Financial Times, the manager of the low-cost airline stated that Ryanair should resume 80% of flights by September, as long as the flight in Europe can resume in July. O’Leary said the airline intends to gradually increase the number of flights and then reduce them again in the less busy winter season.

But, he said, these plans could be thwarted if there were “some totally ineffective social detachment measures, like emptying the middle seats, because if the middle seats are empty, we won’t go back to flying at all.”

O’Leary said Ryanair has told the government that a pushback will occur if such a rule is implemented.

Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair

KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP via Getty Images


“Either the government pays for the middle seat or we don’t fly,” he told the Financial Times. “We can’t make money with 66 percent utilization factors. Even if you do, the middle seat doesn’t provide social distance, so it’s kind of an idiotic idea that doesn’t accomplish anything anyway.”

Some airlines, including Delta, have already taken this step to protect passengers. From April 13 to June 30, Delta announced that it would block the middle seats on all flights. Of course, given the current orders to stay at home, air traffic has dropped so much that most planes have few passengers anyway.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) claims that the risk of infection on an aircraft is usually less than that in a mall or office environment, and recommends reasonable steps to reduce the risk, e.g. B. Wash hands and do not touch the face. These guidelines are consistent with general recommendations from the CDC.

However, IATA general director Alexandre de Juniac said leaving vacant seats on flights could be an additional preventative measure, Reuters reports.

De Juniac admitted that more seats mean more money for airlines that are currently experiencing problems. “On the one hand … you have red-flag airlines that desperately need passengers to return, which could put prices under pressure,” he told Reuters.

“However, when we ask for distance on the plane, we have to neutralize a large number of seats, and that means … you have to raise prices,” he continued, admitting that these are two conflicting trends.

In his interview with the Financial Times, O’Leary said Europe should take other measures instead, such as wearing masks and temperature tests. He said he was confident that there would be a return to normal air traffic levels in the summer of 2021 as soon as there is an effective one Coronavirus vaccination.

“I think Ryanair will carry our 2019 traffic plus growth in the summer of 2021, but airports will still have less traffic than before,” said O’Leary, although FT reports that some aerospace analysts predict that this could take three years .

O’Leary himself cut the wages by 50% and would continue to do so after May, according to the Financial Times, if the suspension continued. Similarly, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said he would give up his salary for the rest of the year.

In the United States, the country’s six largest airlines – Delta, American, United, Southwest, Alaska and JetBlue – and four smaller airlines have tentatively agreed terms $ 25 billion in federal aid Pay workers and keep them employed until September.