Budget European airline Ryanair will require passengers to wear face masks and ban queues for on-board toilets as it launches an ambitious plan to have 40 per cent of its flights back in the air by July 1.
Passengers will also be required to wear masks inside terminals and have their temperature taken at airports’ entries.
With the European Union banning flights during the coronavirus outbreak, Ryanair has been operating a skeleton daily schedule of just 30 services between Ireland, Britain and Europe. Its restart plan focuses on flights from most of its 80 bases across Europe.
Ryanair Holdings’ CEO Michael O’Leary told Britain’s Sky News he thought there would be demand.
“We think those flights will be between 50-60 per cent booked, lower than our normal load, but it’s important to get the business moving again,” he said.
But – in a perhaps controversial move in a new world of social distancing – the airline will sell middle seats because “families travelling need to sit together, people with young children need to sit together”.
Some American carriers have already stopped selling middle seats as they launch their own plans to return to flying.
Ryanair said its cabin crew would wear face masks and offer only limited in-flight services, to be paid for only via cashless transactions.
Chief executive Eddie Wilson said planes would only take off once the EU’s ban was lifted.
“Now that Europe’s states are allowing some gradual return to normal life, we expect this will evolve over the coming weeks and months,” he said.
“With more than six weeks to go to July 1, Ryanair believes this is the most practical date to resume normal flight schedules.”
Mr Wilson said Asian airlines had proven that temperature checks and face masks were the most effective COVID-19 measures on short-haul flights.
The airline’s other post-pandemic flight measures include fewer checked bags, online check-ins, boarding passes downloaded to phones and encouraging social distancing an airports and on-board planes.
All Ryanair planes will also have intensive daily cleaning.
The airline is already selling tickets for its post-July 1 flights.