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Airlines say new travel measures “do not make any sense”

Published on November 26, 2021

The airlines are baffled by the new measures, unaware of the data that could possibly support the accusation made by Portugals Prime Minister of “profound irresponsibility”.

RENA, the Association of Airlines does not agree with the measures proposed this Thursday by the Government to contain the spread of the pandemic, and refutes the accusations of irresponsibility, instead speaking of “possession” and “confiscation.” 

The association say they are perplexed by the “public statement by António Costa, in particular the passage in which he refers generically to the ‘irresponsible’ behavior of airlines and the tightening of sanctions for potential non-compliance (violation of the duty to control the requirement of a test) to a €20k thousand fine per passenger”.

The association representing the majority of airlines that fly to Portugal – including TAP, but also companies such as Lufthansa, Air France or EasyJet – says it does not know why the Government took such restrictive and punitive measures. They guarantee that there is no reason to believe that airlines are not strictly adhering to the rules.

“We are not aware of any data or information that could substantiate the accusation made. On the contrary, the experience of RENA member companies is that on flights with hundreds of passengers, there are sometimes fortuitous situations in one or two cases, the result of human errors, of those who were neither trained nor hired to be an agent of the Portuguese State and who do not speak the Portuguese language”, explains António Moura, lawyer and executive director of RENA.

Moura ensures that RENA member companies “scrupulously comply with the duties assigned to them in terms of safety and support for public health measures, namely the requirement for a vaccination certificate or test to be able to transport passengers”. Because, he explains, Portuguese law already provides for a fine of up to €2000 per passenger for cases where the company does not comply with this duty. On a 150-passenger flight, it’s a potential fine of 300,000 euros, he adds. “This is already a perfectly good deterrent!”

This is not the prime minister’s view. “We found that, unfortunately, the airlines have not fulfilled their obligation”, said António Costa. He continued: “It is an act of profound irresponsibility to transport and disembark people who are not tested. We want to keep borders open and civil aviation activity functioning, but it is a strict obligation to ensure the safety of those transporting and the destinations to which they fly”. It is because of these alleged flaws that the prime minister says sanctions will be tightened.

As of December 1st, António Costa announced that all passengers, regardless of nationality – including Portuguese – and where they come from, are required to submit a negative test to covid to enter Portugal, whether or not they are vaccinated. (READ MORE HERE…)And it is the airlines that are obliged to check the negative test of all passengers who are going to transport to Portugal – with a penalty of a fine of 20 thousand euros per passenger in case of infringement, with the possibility of their flight license to operate in Portugal even being suspended.

RENA’s astonishment extends to the scale of the fine that António Costa announced, which goes from two thousand to 20 thousand euros. “The 10-fold increase in the administrative offense framework seems to us to be totally disproportionate and completely meaningless, especially considering that it is an accessory obligation or duty of a private operator acting in substitution for the State.”

RENA’s criticism is harsh. “Public health policies are a responsibility of the State that must be financed by the State’s own resources, not by dispossession or confiscation by economic operators”, he stressed.

António Moura also considers that this measure, taken from a “purely local perspective”, “does not make any sense in a country that has tourism as the central axis of its economic policy. It will further damage one of the sectors most affected by the pandemic.”

Original article available in Portuguese at http://postal.pt/