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Saturday 30 September 2023 Dublin: 17°C
# Flying
'I don't think Cork-Dublin flights will return' - Ryanair boss
Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has said he does not believe short-haul flights in Ireland are unacceptable from a climate perspective.

RYANAIR CEO MICHAEL O’Leary has said he does not expect to see a return of flights between Dublin and Cork.

However, he does not consider short-haul internal flights in Ireland to be unacceptable in the context of the climate crisis, despite the aviation industry’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

The airline boss also criticised a decision by France to ban short flights that can be replaced by train journeys under 2.5 hours, claiming that exceptions to the ban for connecting flights would mean that “not a single flight” would be cancelled.

The aviation industry is a major polluter and producer of harmful greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat inside the atmosphere, causing average global temperatures to rise.

Cutting short-haul flights that can be taken using other forms of transport has been the focus of some calls to help reduce the sector’s heavy burden on the environment.

However, chief executive of the Dublin airport authority (daa) Kenny Jacobs told the Irish Examiner yesterday that he expects flights to return between Dublin and Cork, a route that was flown in the past by Ryanair and Aer Lingus Regional.

Responding to a question from The Journal at a press conference in Brussels today, O’Leary said: “I don’t think Cork-Dublin flights will return.”

“The motorway journeys are now less than two hours, the train services are less than two hours,” he said.

According to Irish Rail timetables, the direct train journey between Dublin Heuston and Cork Kent stations usually takes around two hours and 37 minutes.

“We were the main airline operating Cork-Dublin flights. We had three flights a day with 97% load factor. Once they finished the motorway, the load factor went from 97% to 23%,” O’Leary said.

Asked whether he believes short-haul flights are acceptable in Ireland from a climate perspective, he said: “I do, because they’re much less efficient but Ireland is a very small island and there’s very few domestic flights.”

“We operate one domestic from Kerry to Dublin where the road journey is five hours. That’s now taking place on a green, clean aircraft, so, I think that’s acceptable, but in reality if you have a small country like Ireland with a very important good motorway network, the market determines that there’s no market for short-haul flights.”

Climate change has already caused “substantial damages” and an increasing level of “irreversible losses” to ecosystems, according to UN scientists.

The world is currently around 1.1 degrees warmer than pre-industrial times and is experiencing impacts such as heatwaves, droughts and melting ice sheets.

In 2015, countries committed under the Paris Agreement to try to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees and not to allow it to surpass 2 degrees. 

Global surface temperatures are expected to exceed 1.5 and 2 degrees unless humanity makes “deep reductions” in emissions.

O’Leary was speaking at a press conference in Brussels after the airline sent a petition to the European Commission calling for ‘overflights’ – that is, a flight travelling over a particular country but not departing from or arriving in it – to be facilitated even during air traffic control srikes.

The petition, which received 1.1 million signatures, according to the airline, called on the Commission to “respect the strike rights of ATC unions but protect 100% of overflights during national ATC strikes”.

If air traffic control strikes require flight cancellations, these should be managed to affect domestic or short-haul flights to or from the affected country, rather than flights flying over it, the petition demands.

Ryanair is requesting that the Commission enforces “binding arbitration” for ATC disputes before strike action, require a 21-day notice of strike action, and require a 72-hour notice of employee participation in strikes.

The French government recently announced that short flights which could be replaced by train journeys under 2.5 hours would no longer be permitted within the country – with certain conditions, such as the availability of trains early enough in the morning and late enough in the evening to travel from one location to another and back in a day.

The measure was proposed by a citizens’ assembly on climate in France in 2019, which originally called for a ban on flights where trains journeys of under four hours were possible.

O’Leary labelled the decision a “complete red herring”, suggesting that “not one flight will be cancelled or banned as a result that measure because it has a huge big asterisks exemption which is unless you’re flying on a connecting flight through Charles de Gaulle”.

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