Ryanair loses legal battle as passenger numbers plummet

Low cost airline Ryanair has seen passenger numbers plummet in September as it loses a court case challenging government COVID-19 travel advice. Tony McDonough reports

Ryanair, aircraft
Ryanair says passenger numbers fell 64% in September as the COVID crisis continues


Budget airline Ryanair has lost a court battle against the Irish Government over COVID-19 travel advice.

And the judgement comes on the day the carrier released its latest passenger numbers showing a 64% plunge in September to 5.1m. It is 47% in its financial year to date having carried just 79.9m passengers compared to 150.3m at the same point in 2019.

Ryanair is one of the biggest airlines at Liverpool John Lennon Airport where, in normal times, it flies to more than 30 destinations.

In July, Ryanair resumed flights on 27 routes out of Liverpool but a resurgence of the COVID-19 virus across Europe in August saw it cut 14 weekly flights to Dublin, Cork; Knock, Girona and Porto. During September the airline opted 53% of its normal schedule across its European network.

On Friday, Ryanair challenged the Irish government over its COVID-19 travel restrictions. In recent weeks it had claimed the nation’s airlines were being “locked up like North Korea” due to the pandemic.

In the High Court in Dublin it claimed the travel advice published by the Irish Government was unlawful and amounted to a disproportionate interference in the rights of the airline and its passengers.

The government advised that people should not travel outside of Ireland, except for essential purposes, and that everyone should holiday at home this year. Ireland has some of the strictest COVID-19 travel advice in Europe, advising against non-essential travel to all but four countries – Cyprus, Finland, Latvia and Liechtenstein.

It also says any person entering the Irish State is advised to restrict their movements for a period of 14 days. Ryanair insists the advice is unconstitutional but this was rejected by the judge, Mr Justice Garrett Simons.

In his ruling, he said: “The Government is entitled, in the exercise of the executive power, to provide such advice to the public. Ryanair’s principal complaint is that, as a matter of domestic constitutional law, the government, in publishing the impugned travel advice, exceeded its executive powers and trespassed upon the legislative power.

“These arguments have been rejected. The advice to avoid non-essential travel and to restrict movements on entry to the state is just that: advice.

“The Government merely requests that persons entering the state from a country not on the ‘green list’ restrict their movements for 14 days. As of August 2020, there had been no legal requirement to do so.”

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