Aer Lingus chief Sean Doyle has said Ireland stands alone in Europe when it comes to its travel restrictions imposed because of coronavirus.
Mr Doyle said the pandemic has had a catastrophic effect on the airline industry and Ireland has been effectively closed off to business.
The Government published a green list of countries and areas last week that are safe to travel to and from but people are still being told to avoid non-essential travel.
The list excludes mainland UK, the US, and popular holiday destinations for Irish holidaymakers such as Spain.
The 15 approved areas are Malta, Finland, Norway, Italy, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus, Slovakia, Greece, Greenland, Gibraltar, Monaco and San Marino.
CEO of Aer Lingus Sean Doyle has told the DÃ¡il Covid-19 committee Ireland's travel restrictions are more restrictive than any other country in Europe.— Ãine McMahon (@AineMcMahon) July 28, 2020
"Ireland now stands alone in applying a policy while the rest of Europe has opened up for travel."
Mr Doyle told the Dail Covid-19 committee that the pandemic has been “catastrophic” for the airline industry.
The chief executive said: “There is not a clear understanding of the scale of the crisis or indeed its significance for the Irish economy and its future recovery.
“Ireland’s travel restrictions are more restrictive than any other country in Europe, and Ireland now stands alone in applying a policy, while the rest of Europe has opened up for travel.
“The criteria being used for Ireland is even more restrictive than what the EU uses for passengers from third countries entering the EU.
“The green list published last week means Ireland is effectively closed for business and this will have profoundly negative effect on the Irish economy and for aviation and tourism sector jobs.
“I started off by saying the Covid-19 crisis had brought about the greatest crisis of global aviation the industry has ever experienced. The situation in the Irish sector is even worse.”
Ryanair chief executive Eddie Wilson said aviation in Ireland supports 40,000 direct jobs and more than 100,000 indirect jobs.
“Tourism overall supports 325,000 jobs, which is more than US multinationals – if we don’t have a functioning industry, all of these jobs are in danger,” he said.
Mr Wilson said Ireland risks being left behind unless travel restrictions are eased.
“We are on the periphery of Europe, and shutting down connectivity will lead to stagnation, and massive job losses in Ireland. That is a certainty and we should wake up to it,” he said.
Miriam Ryan, head of strategy with Dublin Airport Authority, told the committee that testing arriving passengers for Covid-19 would be “challenging”.
She said: “It presents challenges when it comes to space for holding passengers and where you keep them while they are being tested, and the availability of reagents when it comes to testing, and the availability of suitability qualified staff to undertake that testing.”
Ms Ryan suggested that passengers should be tested for Covid-19 when they leave the country of departure.
“There are a lot of challenges when it comes to testing passengers on arrival, so we have already mentioned the opportunity to test the passenger before they leave their country so that the first line of defence will be testing on exit so that passengers arrive here that have already been tested.
“They can show to the airline that they have been tested and a certificate to say they have been tested, and can show it to the border management unit in airports and ports.”
Ms Ryan has said testing passengers before they leave a country has been trialled in Austria and some US states such as Hawaii and Alaska.
Ray Gray, Dublin Airport Authority’s chief financial officer, told the committee there needs to be a sustainable regime for safe travel in the future.
“There has to be confidence for the travelling public,” he said.
Asked about Ireland’s travel restrictions, he said: “Statistically, there is no doubt that there is less travel coming into Ireland compared to our European counterparts, and that is because of the calls that have been made for understandable public health reasons.
“We are going to have to live with this virus into the future and therefore we have to learn how to operate in a risk-managed environment. We need to find measures to co-exist in the future when it comes to health and travel.”