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Italy Threatens to Ban Ryanair After Alleging Repeated Breaches of COVID-19 Regulations

Italy Threatens to Ban Ryanair After Alleging Repeated Breaches of COVID-19 Regulations

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Italy has threatened to ban the low-cost airline Ryanair from operating in the country because of what civil aviation regulators describe as “repeated violations” of COVID-19 safety regulations. Regulators have written to Ryanair and Irish civil aviation officials in the last few days asking the airline to start complying with safety rules or face the prospect of being banned from operating flights to, from or within Italy.

The Dublin-based budget carrier has strenuously denied claims made by the ENAC air safety agency that Ryanair has “systematically” failed to comply with additional health provisions imposed by Italian authorities to prevent the spread of the novel Coronavirus onboard flights.

Photo Credit: Ryanair

Italy requires all airlines operating flights to the country, including foreign carriers, to limit capacity by half so that social distancing can be observed. Airlines are, however, allowed to fill flights to capacity if they meet certain conditions – these include enforcing social distancing during boarding and disembarkation, limiting the amount of hand luggage, and requiring all passengers and crew to wear a mask.

In a statement, ENAC said it had evidence “that Ryanair systematically does not comply with the provisions envisaged in Italy to limit the health risk from Coronavirus onboard aircraft”. The agency warned that if Ryanair continues to “disrespect” Italy’s health measures it would “dispose” of the airline’s air operators permit.

Since resuming flying in June, Ryanair has enforced mandatory face mask rules but has been highly critical of policies to limit hand luggage in the cabin. Instead, Ryanair says its policy of making passengers pay to take a cabin bag on the plane was better because there’s less queueing at check-in, no waiting at baggage reclaim and zero handlings of baggage by someone who might be infected with COVID-19.

But a spokesperson for the airline denied it had broken any of Italy’s COVID-19 health regulations. “The claims made in ENAC’s press release today are factually incorrect,” a Ryanair spokesperson told us in an emailed statement. “Ryanair complies fully with the measures set out by the Italian government and our customers can rest assured that we are doing everything to reduce interaction on both our aircraft and at airports to protect the health of our passengers when flying Ryanair.”

The airline said it was committed to the highest level of passenger safety and claimed it’s ‘Healthy Flying’ procedures “are in line with the safety recommendations and measures set out by the Italian Government and also the European Safety Agency (EASA) & European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC)”.

The spokesperson pointed out that a new boarding procedure to improve social distancing had been introduced and carry-on baggage is strictly limited. In-flight service has also been reduced to minimise contact between passenger and crew.

“All of our aircraft are fitted with state of the art HEPA filters – which remove airborne particles at a rate similar to hospital filtration systems,” a statement from the airline continued.

Ryanair operated to 40 per cent of capacity in July and is aiming to increase capacity to 60 per cent of pre-COVID levels in August. The airline’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary recently revealed his biggest fear for the months ahead was a second wave of COVID-19 across Europe that would likely ground flights once again and decimate customer confidence.

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