Ryanair loses court challenge to Ireland’s pandemic travel rules – dpa international

Irish tourism destination such as this beach on Achill, an Atlantic coast island, are mostly empty (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN —  Ryanair has endorsed a Friday ruling by Ireland’s High Court that the government’s pandemic-related travel measures are advisory rather than mandatory. Despite losing the case, the said airline it “welcomes” the decision as it “confirms there is no legal requirement for the current travel restrictions.” Backed by Aer Lingus, formerly Ireland’s state carrier, Ryanair sued the government in July over the guidelines, which it claimed were presented as “mandatory” and were imposed without parliamentary oversight. Opining that the measures are neither compulsory nor an abuse of power, Justice Garrett Simons said on Friday that “advice to avoid non-essential travel and to restrict movement on entry to the state is just that: advice.”

UN agency data suggest Asia worst-hit by pandemic curbs – dpa international

A near-deserted street in Kuala Lumpur during Malaysia's lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — International travel has plummeted during the novel coronavirus pandemic, with nowhere worse affected than the Asia-Pacific region, according to United Nations tourism body data.International arrivals across the region have dropped 72 per cent so far in 2020, according to the data, which was compiled for the Madrid-based World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) new Tourism Recovery Tracker.International arrivals in the Asia-Pacific were down 99 per cent year-on-year, a standstill that came after countries imposed strict lockdowns and holiday bans aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. China, Japan and South Korea were among the worst affected, with the UNWTO tracker showing an 83-per-cent drop in tourist arrivals across northeast Asia as most countries prohibited all but essential travel.

Ryanair to cut capacity by 20 per cent, blames pandemic travel rules – dpa international

Bleak midwinter at Dublin Airport (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Ryanair said on Friday that it will slash capacity by 20 per cent in October, blaming coronavirus travel curbs introduced at short notice. The Dublin-based airline said that “EU government travel restrictions and policies” aimed at stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus “undermine consumers’ willingness to make forward bookings.” Announcing its second 20 per cent capacity reduction since August, Ryanair accused the Irish government of keeping the country “locked up like North Korea” and of operating “a defective” quarantine system that means arrivals from most countries, some with lower infection rates than Ireland, are expected to self-isolate for 14 days. Supported by Aer Lingus, Ireland’s flag carrier airline, Ryanair has taken the government to court over the curbs, which will not be aligned with EU guidelines until mid-October.

UN tourism agency knocks ‘timid’ leaders, says safe travel possible – dpa international

Before the pandemic and restrictions, scenes such as this in Melaka, a town in southern Malaysia that is a popular tourist destination, were common (Simon Roughneen)

LIMERICK — The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a United Nations agency, on Tuesday criticized governments for being “overly focused” on health and described as “not enough” the “re-opening of borders to tourism” seen to date. The agency wants governments “to do everything they can to get people travelling again,” citing the “the sudden and rapid fall in tourist arrivals” caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Governments have a “responsibility to protect businesses and livelihoods,” the Madrid-based agency said, pointing to estimates published in July that showed the collapse in travel between January and May as having cost up to 320 billion dollars – three times the losses to tourism incurred during the 2007-09 financial crisis and equivalent to Colombia’s gross domestic product.

Pandemic and Brexit discussed as all-Ireland council meets after long hiatus – dpa international

DUBLIN — Ireland’s government hosted Northern Ireland’s regional administration on Friday in the first sitting in over three years of the island’s North South Ministerial Council. Discussions centred on the novel coronavirus pandemic and Britain’s departure from the European Union, leaders said. Speaking at a lunchtime press conference in Dublin Castle, Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said a “critical phase” lies ahead in talks between Britain and the EU, with failure threatening to stymie movement across the border between Ireland, an EU member-state, and Northern Ireland, which is British-ruled. “We don’t want to see trade barriers, either north-south, or east-west,” said Arlene Foster, first minister of Northern Ireland’s Belfast-based regional administration. Foster pushed for further discussions on handling the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed 2,319 people and infected 32,000 across the island, according to official tallies.

Airline conglomerate IAG announces huge losses in wake of pandemic – dpa international

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DUBLIN — International Airlines Group (IAG), which counts British Airways and Iberia among its subsidiaries, on Friday announced a 55.7 per cent drop in revenue and losses of 3.8 billion euros (4.5 billion dollars) for the first half of 2020. Total revenues across the IAG’s fleets, which also include Ireland’s flagship airline Aer Lingus and low-cost carrier Vueling, fell from 12.02 billion euros to just over 5.3 billion euros, IAG said in a statement. IAG attributed the losses to the novel coronavirus, which it described as having “a devastating impact on the global airline and travel sectors.” After the World Health Organization in March declared the outbreak a pandemic, countries across Asia, Europe and North America imposed travel restrictions that in some cases included border closures. “As a result of government travel restrictions, quarter 2 passenger traffic fell by 98.4 per cent on a capacity reduction in the quarter of 95.3 per cent,” IAG said in its statement.

Irish airline Aer Lingus to lay off 500 workers due to pandemic – dpa international

Social distancing guidelines in St. Stephen's Green, a park in central Dublin (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Citing a slump in air travel due to the coronavirus, Aer Lingus on Friday announced it will fire 500 workers and slammed Ireland’s interim government for failing “to take steps that other European [Union] member states have taken.” Citing a “catastrophic” collapse in air travel that has reduced it to 5 per cent of its pre-pandemic operations, the airline said that other European countries “have progressively restored transport services and connectivity in response to a European Commission invitation to do so.” The 30 flights undertaken by Aer Lingus in the past week amount to around 10 per cent of the level of activity the same week one year ago, the airline said.  Friday’s jobs cull followed a Monday announcement by Aer Lingus that pay and working hours will be cut to 30 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

Singapore and China to reopen some travel in June – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — A “fast lane” for business and “essential” travel between Singapore and China will open next week, allowing some flights to resume between the two countries after a four-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to officials. A Singapore Foreign Ministry statement released late Friday said that travel will initially be allowed between Singapore and six Chinese cities and regions, including Shanghai and Guangdong. Though the two countries have reported the most coronavirus cases in East Asia, Singapore believes “the prevention and control of Covid-19 and the economic and social recovery” in both to have “entered a new phase.” While the majority of China’s 84,160 reported coronavirus cases were diagnosed early in the year – after the virus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan before spreading around the world – Singapore’s caseload has increased 33-fold since April 1, with thousands of foreign workers infected.

Singapore to allow transit flights from June 2 as restrictions eased – dpa international

Singapore harbour seen from Marina Bay, a popular vantage point for visitors (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore will permit some international passengers to transit through Changi Airport from June 2 as restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus are gradually lifted. Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority announced on Wednesday that the city-state aims to “gradually reopen air transport to meet the needs of our economy and our people, whilst ensuring sufficient safeguards for safe travel.” Changi Airport is a widely-used hub for travellers making their way to and from the Asia-Pacific region. Authorities closed two of its four terminals after international travel came to a standstill in the wake of the pandemic and Singapore’s ban on visitors and transit.

Singapore’s national airline records first-ever annual loss – dpa international

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KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore Airlines reported a net annual loss of 212 million Singapore dollars (149 million US dollars) for the year to March 31, the first time in the carrier’s 48-year history that it failed to earn an annual profit. The airline’s revenue was down nearly a billion dollars on 2019, when it posted a 683-million-dollar profit. The carrier put the reversal largely down to the impact of the new coronavirus pandemic – which halted most international travel even before Singapore’s government closed the country’s borders and imposed a lockdown on April 7. “Market conditions deteriorated abruptly in February,” Singapore Airlines noted in a statement. The airline signalled in March that it would be forced to temporarily ground 96 per cent of its capacity due to the pandemic.