Wednesday 3 March 2021 12:07 pm

Ryanair to launch own vaccine passport tool over delay fears

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said this morning that the budget carrier is adding a tool to its app to allow passengers to upload vaccine certificates and negative coronavirus tests to get travel going again.

Speaking to the parliamentary transport select committee this morning, the Irishman said that the airline had done so because it was worried that an internationally approved solution would take too long to be rolled out.

Read more: Ryanair flies just 500,000 people in February as travel restrictions continue

He said: “We are not a great supporter of the principle of a vaccine passport, in the sense that you have some internationally accredited document that’s issued by governments because it won’t come out quickly enough for this summer.

“We’re launching a tool on our own app so passengers can either upload a vaccination certificate or negative PCR tests, and then you should be allowed to freely travel.”

Last week the European Commission said that it would take about three months to get such a system in place.

But multiple private providers, such as airlines body IATA, are trialling such solutions already.

O’Leary also hammered the government’s Global Travel Taskforce, which is currently working on proposals to get international travel going again.

“We don’t think these government taskforces are likely to achieve much.

“As you all know, if you want to slow something down in the House of Commons, you set up a taskforce”, he told MPs.

“The Department for Transport exists to take decisions on transport, not to set up taskforces.”

Transport minister Robert Courts hit back at O’Leary’s comments, saying: “I absolutely reject the suggestion that the taskforce is a way of pushing this into the long grass. It is a way of getting this operational as fast as possible.”

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He pointed to the “Test to Release” scheme, which was set up in a month by the predecessor to the current taskforce, as evidence of this.

Waiving APD would be ‘biggest shot in the arm’ for travel

O’Leary also said that the government’s decision to extend the furlough scheme is “way short of what needs to be done” to protect the aviation industry.

Ministers have all but confirmed that the job retention scheme will be extended until the end of September in today’s Budget, but O’Leary said it would not provide sufficient support on its own.

Instead, he said that the government should waive air passenger duty (APD) until flying returned to pre-pandemic levels.

“We will be dropping prices for the next six to 12 months to get people back flying, but that means we will have much higher costs due to all our spare capacity.

“The government has one lever at their disposal – the ridiculous APD tax of £22 per departing passenger – but no effort has been made to roll that back or reduce it.”

O’Leary added that waiving the tax would be the “biggest shot in the arm” possible for the industry in terms of encouraging people to fly again.

Read more: Budget 2021: Furlough extension a life-saver but not enough, analysts say

The airline is targeting flying up to 70 per cent of its 2019 passenger numbers this summer, O’Leary said.

O’Leary added that ministers should remove all restrictions for travellers who had either had a vaccine, or could show a negative Covid test.