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Narrative of 'shaming' is turning public away from flying, says Aer Lingus chief

The head of Aer Lingus has suggested that there has been a “degree of toxicity and flight shaming”.

A NARRATIVE OF “shaming” people who have flown during Covid-19 is turning the public away from travel, the head of Aer Lingus has suggested.

Interim Chief Executive Officer of Aer Lingus Donal Moriarty has said that the aviation industry has been impacted by negative connotations attached to taking flights during the pandemic.

Speaking on Brendan O’Connor on RTÉ Radio One, Moriarty said that there has been a “degree of toxicity and flight shaming and we really we have to move on from that”.

“If you look at how important international travel is to the Irish economy, I think we need to pivot away from that mentality to a position where we’re actually promoting international travel as critical to our economy,” Moriarty said.

“I think it’s the narrative that has caused people to feel unsafe – the narrative that has come out at a policy level,” he said.

Moriarty referenced guidance published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on air travel and Covid-19 to suggest that the risk from travel is not as high as some have believed it to be.

The ECDC guidance advised that a modelling study “estimates that imported Covid-19 cases, using the May 2019 travel volumes, would have accounted for less than 1% of the total of cases in 48 countries and less than 10% in 142 countries around the world in May 2020″.

Currently, people travelling into Ireland from overseas are required to fill out a Covid-19 Passenger Locator Form.

Moriarty suggested that arrivals should be required to download the Track and Trace app when they enter the country.

He said that a “far more effective regime” than the existing one would be to implement rapid antigen tests prior to arrival alongside compulsory use of the Track and Trace App for international travellers after they arrive.

“I don’t think Aer Lingus directly would provide [antigen tests] but we would identify providers of that service. I think Dublin Airport would shift directly to antigen testing as a standard if that were approved as a standard, so those providers are ready in the market and ready to provide that service.”

Moriarty said that two million requests for a refund or voucher were made to Aer Lingus due to halts in travel from the start of the pandemic.

Of those, around 90% have been processed,  Moriarty said, with several thousands of customers still waiting to receive a refund or voucher.

Ireland is currently operating within the EU-wide traffic lights system for international travel which categories countries as green, orange or red depending on the country’s incidence rate of Covid-19.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said in November that the government was asking people not to travel home for Christmas, but that if felt they needed to, they should “follow the rules”.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said if people choose to travel home this Christmas they should follow the traffic light rules as regards testing.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan described the choice to travel as a “judgement call”.

“It is a judgement call and it is the individual that is best placed to judge that, I think everyone’s family circumstances are different, I don’t think we can define that,” Ryan said.

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