The Irish Airline Pilots Association has called for the urgent introduction of a mandatory rapid antigen testing regime to reopen the aviation sector. 

IALPA President Evan Cullen told the Oireachtas Transport Committee that this testing would help to manage the risk from passengers coming from 'high-risk' or 'red' areas or countries.

He said it would also allow the industry to reopen the sector. 

Mr Cullen said the Government could have accommodated Christmas for Irish families if they had adopted and embraced rapid antigen testing for Covid-19 at Irish airports. 

He said that rapid testing should be available for arriving and departing passengers, as well as staff working at the airports on a daily basis.

The committee heard that it was the best way to build confidence in the industry and get people back flying. 

He said rapid antigen testing is between €5 and €10 per test and gives results within 15 and 50 minutes. 

Mr Cullen said that 100% mandatory testing of the silver standard is better than the voluntary position on the gold standard PCR test.

He was responding to a question from Chair of the Committee Fine Gael TD Kieran O'Donnell, who asked if testing should be mandatory for countries in orange and red regions.

Mr O'Donnell said that he believes that PCR testing should be made mandatory for orange and red countries so people can come home for Christmas.

He also said capacity should be expanded to ensure tests can take place at a reasonable cost.

IALPA also told the committee that half of its 1,200 members are receiving no income from their employer due being made redundant or being laid off.

Mr Cullen said the remaining 50% are on incomes between 25% and 30% of their normal full-time income. 

He said that the massive decline in incomes is having a major impact on our members' ability to pay their mortgages and other bills.

Mr Cullen warned if the effective shutdown of the sector continues then the impact on Irish pilots will be catastrophic. 

He said that is why they are so eager to get Irish aviation safely operating again in line with its European partners.

SIPTU's Neil McGowan called for the short-time working scheme to be introduced for aviation.

Mr McGowan said that accessing other State benefits while on the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme had been a major issue for members.

He said that many workers were in receipt of that payment when they were working fewer hours than normal and the 30% working arrangement was in place.

Mr McGowan said many Aer Lingus workers made applications to the Department of Social Protection to claim short time working payments as well.

However, he said it had been "exceptionally frustrating" that there had been no "clear direction" on the issue.

Mr McGowan said the general information coming back to them was that while people were in receipt of the TWSS they would not qualify for any other payments.

However, he said that people have not got decisions for local offices and it was "unacceptable" that they have been left in limbo for that period of time.