By Kristy Dorsey

The UK will “very quickly” move towards less onerous requirements on double-vaccinated airline passengers, a senior director of Ryanair has predicted.

Speaking in Edinburgh after the launch of the budget carrier’s 2021 “recovery schedule” for Scotland, director of commercial Jason McGuinness referred to the EU Digital Covid Certificate scheme which came into use at the start of this month. Covering the 27 member nations plus Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, it allows those who have been vaccinated or who have recently had a negative PCR test to avoid all testing or quarantining when crossing the borders of participating countries.

At the moment, British citizens returning from amber-listed EU countries must test before boarding and after arrival, but are not required to self-isolate if they have been double-vaccinated. Those who have been vaccinated in other countries are still required to self-isolate in the UK.

However, the UK Government has said it is “actively working” on letting fully vaccinated passengers arrive from EU countries without the need to do so.

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“I believe the UK will move towards that very quickly as the current traffic light scheme is not fit for purpose,” Mr McGuinness said. “It is creating confusion, particularly after the introduction last Friday of ‘amber plus’ rules.”

In a last-minute U-turn before England’s “Freedom Day” this past Monday, the UK Government announced that new rules on self-isolating will not apply to France because of concerns over the spread of the Beta strain of Covid. The decision has led to widespread concern within the travel industry that other destinations could be added to the “amber plus” list.

Mr McGuinness said the disparities are hampering confidence among UK travellers.

“The UK is recovering at a slower speed than the rest of Europe,” he said. “What we have to bear in mind is this is not just about people taking holidays – though after all this time, people have certainly earned a holiday – it is also about small businesses…and families who have not seen each other for the past 18 months.”

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Ryanair carried 5.3 million passengers across its European network in June, down from 14.2 million during the same month in 2019, but up from 500,000 in March of this year. The group has also taken delivery of the first 15 of 210 new MAX-8200 aircraft due to go into service within the next three years, having announced plans to hire 2,000 pilots during the same period.

“We are generally very positive,” he said. “We have increased our passenger numbers from one million in April to just over 5.3 million in June, and we are close to carrying nine million in July.”

Its summer schedule for Scotland includes 245 weekly flights to 78 destinations, including three new routes from Edinburgh: Italy’s Naples, Knock in the Republic of Ireland, and Zadar in Croatia, all flying twice weekly.

The winter schedule will also include three new routes running twice per week from Edinburgh: Italy’s Turin, Knock, and the Estonian capital of Tallinn. There are a total of 55 routes out of Scotland on the winter schedule, with 203 weekly flights.

Broken down by departure, Edinburgh Airport will host 58 routes this summer and 45 in the winter, followed by Glasgow Prestwick with 10 and five. Glasgow International has seven summer and four winter routes, with Aberdeen at three and one.

“Following the successful vaccination programmes, Scottish air traffic led by Ryanair is set to recover strongly in summer 2021 and we are pleased to announce our recovery schedules for Scotland which will deliver 4.7 million passengers p.a. across 78 routes including new summer and winter routes to exciting destinations such as Naples, Zadar and Turin,” Mr McGuinness said.

He added that should plans change, Ryanair will allow passengers to move their travel dates free of charge up until the end of this year.