The Irish tourism industry should be "really worried" about this winter season, according to the CEO of Ryanair.
Eddie Wilson says people can 'get obsessed' about the idea of summer holidays being allowed again, but Ireland's economy still needs tourists coming here as well.
He was speaking as restrictions around non-essential international travel have now been eased, as Ireland rolls out the EU Digital COVID Certificate to facilitate travel in the bloc.
Over 22,000 people are set to pass through Dublin Airport today, compared to just a few hundred at some points during the pandemic.
DAA says it will likely be years before traffic levels at the airport return to pre-pandemic levels, but today marks a “very good start”.
Both Aer Lingus and Ryanair have ramped up their schedules ahead of an expected surge in passengers.
Ryanair CEO Eddie Wilson told The Hard Shoulder flights are going “very well” so far, with around 72% of seats full and that number growing.
However, he warned there's still uncertainty about what the winter holds.
He argued: "We tend to get obsessed about the idea of people going on their summer holidays, but this economy needs tourists coming the other way.
“We’ve sent out really strong signals in Ireland over the last six months that we were closed for business - we’re going to have to make that up as a country.
“This winter is the one the tourism industry should really worry about, particularly hotels in Dublin - hotels in Dublin have been empty for months. We still don’t have the restaurants open.
"This winter is still uncertain for Ireland - there are less flights to be had and Ireland isn’t competing for those at the moment."
He said it's great that travel is now reopening, but it's important not to overestimate the effect of flights resuming.
The Ryanair CEO urged Transport Minister Eamon Ryan to implement the recommendations of last year's aviation taskforce report.
He said state-owned airlines across Europe have been receiving major bailouts, but Irish commercial airlines Ryanair and Aer Lingus also need incentives.
He said his firm wants to see a reduction in airport charges "for everybody" on a temporary basis, to help them get back to profitability.
The reopening of foreign travel has led to some confusion around how exactly flights will work.
It's expected most passengers will have their EU certs checked when boarding the plane, along with 'spot checks' on arrival.
However, Virgin Media News reporter Paul Quinn today said his digital cert wasn't checked at all while flying from Dublin to Spain.
Mr Wilson said there are slightly different rules for each country.
He explained: “If you’re vaccinated and have the digital passport you’re not going to have difficulty at all.
“When you fill out the passenger locator form [for] Spain, that is the check - you’re making a solemn declaration to the Spanish government. We don’t have to check the digital certificate going through, because you’ve already made that declaration.
“It’s not a question of you have to see the digital certificate in every jurisdiction at boarding - it depends on the country.”