Ryanair looks enviously at Britain as it urges the EU to step up vaccine roll-out

Ryanair has urged Brussels to accelerate the “slow-pace” of its vaccination scheme after it reported a €321m loss in the final quarter of 2020.

The Dublin-based airline said the EU must try and match the pace of inoculations in the UK as Covid-19 “continues to wreak havoc across the industry”.

Lockdown restrictions brought Ryanair traffic down by 83% compared to December of the previous year. Passenger numbers are down to just 1.9 million.

The airline said: “We take some comfort from the success of the UK vaccine programme which is on target to vaccinate almost 50% of the UK population by the end of March.

“The EU now needs to step up the slow pace of its rollout programme to match the UK’s performance.”

Ryanair has changed its tune on the benefits EU independence.

In 2018, the carrier threatened to ground planes after the UK withdrew from the European Union to persuade voters to “rethink Brexit.”

Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary said at the time: “When you begin to realise that you’re no longer going to have cheap holidays in Portugal or Spain or Italy, you’ve got to drive to Scotland or get a ferry to Ireland, maybe we’ll begin to rethink the whole Brexit debate.”

O’Leary was a passionate Remainer in the lead-up to the Brexit referendum.

In 2016, he said: “As the UK’s largest airline, Ryanair is absolutely clear that the UK economy and its future growth prospects are stronger as a member of the European Union than they are outside of the EU.”

O’Leary added that he also believed Asia and the US would “no longer want to invest in the UK” after Brexit.

Late last year the controversial airline executive said Ryanair would benefit from the pandemic, saying the collapse of competitors would benefit his carrier. “Somebody has to step up and take that capacity,” O’Leary told the FT.

“I have never in my 30 years in the industry seen such a clean-out. The real seismic change from Covid will be the growth opportunities across Europe. They are much greater than after the financial crisis or 9/11.”

But now he has changed his tune, no longer smirking over a pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of people in Europe alone, but also in his attitude towards Britain and its successful vaccine roll-out.

In December O’Leary received a scathing backlash for offering Covid tests to encourage more people to travel abroad during a second spike of the virus.

On Sunday, the government said Ireland was top of the priority list for spare jabs. “If Ireland was still experiencing shortfalls, we absolutely would [supply them],” a source told the Telegraph.