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UPDATE 1-UK COVID-19 policy threatens hundreds of thousands of jobs - Ryanair's O'Leary

Thu, 24th Sep 2020 09:26

(Recasts with jobs warning, adds comments on booking patterns,
background)

DUBLIN, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Britain risks losing hundreds of
thousands of travel and tourism jobs in the coming months unless
the government offers proper supports to workers and relaxes
travel restrictions, Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary said
on Thursday.

O'Leary, group chief executive of Europe's largest low-cost
carrier, was speaking hours ahead of the announcement of new UK
COVID-19 support measures and weeks ahead of the launch of a
European Union plan to coordinate travel restrictions in Europe.

Failure join the EU plan and provide a proper furlough
scheme to pay those whose work has dried up due to COVID-19
"will mean literally hundreds of thousands of job losses this
winter," O'Leary told Sky News in an interview.

British finance minister Rishi Sunak on Thursday was due to
announce a replacement for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme,
which supported 8.9 million private-sector jobs at its peak in
May, as part of a series of new COVID-19 support measures.

O'Leary said if there was no "proper" replacement, staff not
required would be put on unpaid leave. Job losses cannot be
ruled out, but Ryanair is "desperately working with our people
to prevent them," he said.

O'Leary also called for the scrapping of the United
Kingdom's air passenger tax for 12-24 months.

The EU travel scheme, due to be finalised in mid-October,
would set out common COVID-19 travel rules across the continent
and impose restrictions on regions with high COVID-19 rates
rather than countries.

O'Leary, who earlier this month described the winter as a
"write-off", said Ryanair's forward bookings for November and
December are around 10%, around a quarter of the normal level
for this time of year.

He said British airlines in general were likely to fly
around 30-40% of their normal capacity this winter and said
bookings were now around 20-30% of normal levels.
(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Mark Potter and Jane
Merriman)

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