On Thursday, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary launched a stinging attack on the British government’s handling of the Omicron variant, suggesting that the unvaccinated should be barred from flying to encourage more people to acquire the life-saving COVID-19 vaccination.
In an interview with The Independent, the 60-year-old CEO of Europe’s largest low-cost carrier slammed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s response to Omicron, criticizing his government’s continuous changes in travel laws and the reinstatement of costly PCR testing.
“There is this omicron hysteria in the UK, most of it generated by Downing Street and the government – I suspect to cover up their day-to-day mismanagement of almost every aspect of life,” O’Leary said on the same day the British government reported a record-breaking 88,376 new COVID-19 infections.
Johnson has urged all adult Britons to get booster shots before the end of the year, effectively putting the country on the verge of war, with the army being called in to assist in a nationwide campaign to get as many people as possible vaccinated with a third dosage of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Although the travel ban Red List was demolished on Wednesday, pre-departure and post-arrival testing regulations, as well as required self-isolation, remain in effect.
“It seems to us that their policies are designed specifically to discourage people from travelling by air, particularly when people are fully vaccinated,” O’Leary said.
“I see no justification for the UK government rules that passengers who’ve already done the sensible thing and got vaccinated now have to take tests before they travel and, more ludicrously, two days after they travel.”
While O’Leary opposes COVID-19 testing for vaccinated passengers, he does support preventing unvaccinated passengers from flying.
Rather than seeing it as a vaccine obligation, he sees such limits as a way to encourage people to get vaccines.
“I would however support encouraging more and more of the unvaccinated minority to get vaccinated. Instead of introducing mandatory vaccination policies, you have to make it more and more attractive for people to become vaccinated,” he explained.
“So I would support limiting air travel to vaccinated people.”
The British government has so far opposed a vaccine mandate for air travel, and countries such as Germany have allowed COVID-19 testing as an alternative.
Vaccine mandates in Europe have sparked a wave of violent mass protests across the continent, notably in Vienna, Austria’s capital, where the government aims to implement a general vaccine requirement early next year.
“We fully recognise your choice, your individual freedom to be unvaccinated, if you really believe that there is some ludicrous conspiracy between government and ‘big pharma’,” O’Leary continued.
“But if that’s the case, please sit at home and order your meals and your pharmaceuticals by delivery. You should not have the same freedoms that all the people who have been vaccinated and have got their boosters have and can enjoy.”
Qantas was the first airline in the world to voluntarily establish its own vaccine mandate for foreign customers, but most airlines have flatly refused to impose passenger mandates.