The managing director of Belfast International Airport has slammed the Northern Ireland Executive for a lack of clarity about the reopening of international travel.
Graham Keddie said the airport was “extremely disappointed” with the Executive’s announcement about the latest easing of restrictions on Thursday.
Under the new rules, due to come into force from May 24, non-essential travel will no longer be banned from Northern Ireland to other parts of the Common Travel Area, which consists of the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.
Those returning to Northern Ireland from the CTA will not be required to self-isolate but will be expected to take lateral flow tests pre-departure and on days 2 and 8 after returning.
Those arriving in Northern Ireland having already completed a period of self-isolation on arrival elsewhere in the CTA will not be required to self-isolate again.
No indication has yet been given about the adoption of a traffic light system which has now been confirmed by the UK government and those in Scotland and Wales.
Keddie said: “We are extremely disappointed by the NI Executive’s announcement yesterday. We are urging them to reconsider and remove the current restrictions around the Common Travel Area and implement a clear ‘green travel’ list in line with England and Scotland.
“The latest guidelines around the CTA are unclear and confusing for both the travel industry and passengers. Aviation has been devastated by the pandemic and without clear guidelines for travel we cannot rebuild to meet the demand that is anticipated in the coming months.
“We need the Executive to work with us and give us a clear, indicative timeline so that Northern Ireland’s airport and airlines can be fully prepared for travel.
“Sadly, too many jobs have been lost and now a recruitment phase will need to take place so we can rebuild the sector. This will of course take time. It is key that the Executive provides clear dates so we can be prepared as travel begins to open up again.”
He added: “As the airport works towards full reopening, we would ask that passengers are patient and familiarise themselves with the rules around air travel. Queues will be expected as we need to maintain social distancing and we would ask that passengers arrive two hours prior to departure.
“Anyone with Covid-19 symptoms must stay away from the airport and passengers must adhere to all the public health guidelines as we start to increase our flights and passenger flow.”
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of Abta, urged the Northern Ireland Executive to follow England, Scotland and Wales in publishing a green list of destinations where holidaymakers can return without having to self-isolate.
“We also need the Executive to continue to provide financial support through to recovery and to help businesses trade out of this difficult time,” said Tanzer.