Budget airline Ryanair (RYA.L) has expanded schedule for its summer flights, which includes 26 new routes, in hopes that travel will open up soon amid a successful vaccine rollout in the UK, even as coronavirus cases rise across Europe.
The move comes a day after it was reported that there is a chance anyone who leaves England to travel outside the country without a reasonable excuse could be hit with a £5,000 ($6,856) fine, as per new coronavirus laws that could be introduced next week and last until the end of June.
Prime minister Boris Johnson had set out his long-awaited "roadmap" out of lockdown earlier. Included in his four-step plan was to allow international travel potentially by 17 May, although not any earlier, and subject to review.
Johnson said that restrictions on international leisure travel will only be eased after a review in April, led by transport secretary Grant Shapps.
But it does not bode well for travel that over the weekend Johnson warned the UK could soon be hit by a third wave of coronavirus infections similar to that currently being experienced by other European countries.
Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary is confident that travel will open up in the summer though. He told Sky News on Wednesday he is expecting countries across Europe, including the UK, to stop "locking people down" from June.
“We’re reasonably confident that there will be unrestricted holiday travel for British families going to European beach resorts,” he said.
He added that the airline expects to be operating over 2,000 flights per week during July, August and September 2021 and that the decision to expand its schedule and routes was not a gamble.
A big factor in this decision was the success of the UK's vaccination rollout. O'Leary said popular holiday destinations in Europe, including Greece, Spain and Portugal, were ready to welcome Brits who had received their jabs.
He also said Ryanair was making progress in issuing refunds for flights cancelled due to the pandemic, with a backlog of requests cleared and new claims being handled within 24 hours.
The airline is adding 26 new routes to destinations in Greece, Portugal and Spain from the UK.
These routes include flights from London to Preveza, Rodez, Santorini and Zakynthios, Birmingham to Poznan and Rhodes, Edinburgh to Knock and Naples, Liverpool to Kaunas and Kosice, Manchester to Bucharest and Knock and Bristol to Venice.
Meanwhile, experts have warned that overseas summer holidays for Brits are looking "unlikely" amid surging virus numbers in Europe and fears of variants.
Government scientist Mike Tildesley said that the UK faces a "real risk" if people travel abroad, while travel secretary Grant Shapps said it was "too early to tell" when foreign travel might be back on.