United Kingdom

Ryanair will slash ticket prices for a year in bid to resume 70% of flights by this summer

Britons desperate to enjoy a summer holiday this year were given a boost today as Ryanair announced plans to slash ticket prices for a year, and P&O unveiled a series of 'staycation cruises' to beat the ban on international travel.

Michael O'Leary, CEO of the budget airline, hopes to resume up to 70 per cent of normal traffic by the summer in a bid to get travellers flying again.

He expected this to rise to as much as 80 per cent in winter with the pandemic under control.

Speaking to Parliament's Transport Select Committee he said: 'We would be hopeful that we could fly maybe 60, 70% of our normal traffic volumes during the peak summer months... June, July, August and September.'

He indicated that prices would be cut for six to 12 months to encourage Britons to head abroad when restrictions are expected to be lifted in May or June. 

Michael O'Leary, CEO of the budget airline, hopes to resume up to 70 per cent of normal traffic by the summer in a bid to get travellers flying again

Mr O’Leary said Ryanair had been 'essentially wiped out' by Covid-19, and is only predicted to fly 27 million people in the year to March, down from a peak of 150 million before the pandemic

Meanwhile P&O Cruises said they would be offering a series of week-long sailings around Britain's coastline to offer a short summer break without the hassle of international travel.

The firm have said the cruises, departing from Southampton, will go on sale later in March.

Mr O’Leary said Ryanair had been 'essentially wiped out' by Covid-19, and is only predicted to fly 27 million people in the year to March, down from a peak of 150 million before the pandemic.

Mr O'Leary also forecast that the company had made a loss of around €850 million, but hopes to break even in 2022.

P&O Cruises said they would be offering a series of week-long sailings around Britain's coastline to offer a short summer break without the hassle of international travel

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary said Government support for airlines during the coronavirus pandemic has been 'lamentable'.

He claimed there is 'much more to be done' to help the industry during the Covid-19 crisis.

Giving evidence to the Transport Select Committee, Mr O'Leary said the furlough scheme is 'welcome', but 'the Government has been lamentable in providing other support'.

He went on: 'We had to refund over 1.5 billion euro (£1.3 billion) to customers in the last 12 months because our flights were cancelled by government order.

'There has been no support for that. We have received no support.'

He criticised Chancellor Rishi Sunak for failing to reduce Air Passenger Duty (APD), which he described as a 'ridiculous' tax that 'hits the poorest people hardest'.

He said: 'No effort has been made by the Government to roll that back, reduce it temporarily, or in fact - what we would call for - abandon it altogether, at least until traffic at UK airports recovers to pre-pandemic levels.'

He added: 'There's much more to be done on Government support.

'The furlough scheme falls short of what needs to be done and it will be a very challenging and difficult return to normal operation or pre-Covid operation levels and profitability.'

While a return to pre-Covid levels of international travel is not expected until 2022, Spain and Greece are believed to be working on their own 'travel corridor' scheme for Britons to holiday in their top tourist destinations.

Spain is considering its own 'green corridor' for vaccinated Britons to allow them to visit this summer if there is no EU agreement on vaccine passports, the country's tourism minister has said. 

Fernando Valdés said his government is in talks with the UK about making travel easier between the two countries in time for the summer holidays.

Spain is considering its own 'green corridor' for vaccinated Britons to allow holidaymakers to visit this summer if there is no EU agreement on vaccine passports, the country's tourism minister has said

Mr Valdés said Spain is seeking to find an agreement with the EU to allow tourism to restart - but if that does not work, the country will open bilateral talks with non-EU countries. 

Meanwhile, in Greece, officials said British holidaymakers who can prove they have been jabbed will be allowed straight through customs, bypassing others who will have to wait for Covid tests.  

The scheme could be up and running by May, the earliest possible date that Britons might be allowed to travel following the results of a government consultation.

It comes as P&O, Britain's largest cruise line, announced a series of week-long sailings will travel around the UK's coastal waters to offer a short summer break for fatigued Britons.

The firm have said the cruises, departing from Southampton, will go on sale later in March, with details about prices and dates to be announced.

P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow, said: 'While holidays here in the UK will be the first to become a reality we will, of course, gradually see the return of international travel but first we want guests to be able to enjoy a proper summer holiday at sea with the best in relaxation, entertainment and dining choice.

Hopes of foreign summer holidays in Europe were given a boost on Sunday after the EU said its 'vaccine passports' scheme could be opened up to the UK 

'These sailings will leave from our home port in Southampton and sail around UK coastal waters enjoying the summer sunshine.'

He went on to say: 'We hope that the UK ultimate escape staycation option will have wide appeal and we will do our utmost to make it a very special time.

'There really will be something for everyone and the opportunity to spend precious and much-longed for time with family and friends.'

The firm said a number of health and safety measures would be in place to 'enable everyone to enjoy a wonderful holiday this summer'.

It had previously extended the suspension of sailings until next month due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Ludlow added: 'I really am so sorry for the disappointment these cancellations will cause but hope that the new UK cruises will enable everyone to enjoy a wonderful holiday this summer.'

He said once travel restrictions are lifted the firm will begin the 'significant logistical task' of restarting international operations.

Customers with affected bookings will also automatically receive credit for a future sailing worth 125 per cent of the cost of their original trip. They can also request a cash refund.

Royal Caribbean recently announced what is being touted as the 'world's first fully vaccinated cruise' that will only be open to passengers who have received Covid jabs.

All crew and passengers over the age of 16 on board the new Odyssey of the Seas ship will have been jabbed when it departs on its maiden voyage from Israel in May, the company said.

The ship had initially been due to depart from Rome and sail to Florida, but the venue was changed to Israel due to the country's rapid vaccine roll-out. 

It is the first time a cruise company has requested a 'vaccine passport' from passengers, amid fears the documents could soon become necessary to participate in everyday life. 

Britain set to be included in EU's vaccine passport scheme

Hopes of foreign summer holidays in Europe were given a boost on Sunday after the EU said its 'vaccine passports' scheme could be opened up to the UK.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced plans for a so-called 'Digital Green Pass' to kick-start travel.

It could come into force as early as June and the idea would be to open it up to non-EU countries to unlock the continent's beaches and resorts in time for the lucrative summer season.

Last night Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the UK was in discussions with Brussels and he believed the plan also included facilitating travel for non-vaccinated tourists who can show proof of a recent negative test.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen revealed plans for a so-called 'Digital Green Pass'. The scheme will be used first to open up the continent before Britain will be allowed to join

It is also believed that the World Health Organisation is warming to the idea of so-called 'vaccine passports', having advised against using them in January.

Dr Michael Ryan, director of the WHO’s emergencies programme, said the agency was now ‘looking at different options’ around vaccine passports so that ‘governments can at some point verify the vaccination status of individuals as they potentially move around the world’.

But he stressed there were still ‘serious human rights and ethical’ concerns about potentially restricting freedom of movement for people who don’t have access to vaccines or who choose not to be inoculated.

Announcing the measures Sunday, Mrs von der Leyen said the scheme would aim to open up travel within the bloc first, raising the prospect of Europeans booking up hotels and resorts before Britons get the chance to join it.

She said: 'The Digital Green Pass should facilitate Europeans' lives. The aim is to gradually enable them to move safely in the EU or abroad for work or tourism.' 

But crucially, her chief spokesman added: 'We're of the view that in collaboration with the World Health Organisation, there should be a way to scale this up globally.'

A source close to the European Commission chief said Britons were 'always welcome', adding: 'As long as you meet all of the conditions and standards.'

It is understood the number of Covid infections in Britain will have to continue falling before the scheme is extended to the UK, but the comments will offer a glimmer of hope to lockdown-weary Britons desperate for a break abroad.

Boris Johnson's spokesman said: 'The Department for Transport will work and speak to countries across the world in terms of how they may look to introduce passports.'

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