Dublin — Britain risks losing hundreds of thousands of travel and tourism jobs in the coming months unless the government offers proper support to workers and relaxes travel restrictions, says Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary.

O’Leary, group CEO of Europe’s largest low-cost carrier, was speaking on Thursday hours ahead of the announcement of new UK Covid-19 support measures and weeks ahead of the launch of a EU plan to co-ordinate travel restrictions in Europe.

Failure to 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 was due on Thursday 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 is no “proper” replacement, staff not required will 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 UK’s air passenger tax for 12-24 months.

The EU travel scheme, due to be finalised in mid-October, will 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 in September described the winter as a “write-off”, said Ryanair’s forward bookings for November and December are about 10%, about a quarter of the normal level for this time of year. British airlines in general are likely to fly 30%-40% of their normal capacity this winter and bookings are now about 20%-30% of normal levels, he said.


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