Coronavirus: Ryanair and British Airways to temporarily cancel hundreds of flights

Ryanair has notified its passengers that it will be temporarily reducing the number of its short-haul flights, mainly to and from Italy, by up to 25 per cent due to fears over the coronavirus.

The reduction, which will take place over a three week period - from Tuesday 17th March to Wednesday 8th April, comes in response to the fact the travel firm has seen a significant drop in bookings over that late March/early April period due to the virus.

The news comes British Airways also confirmed that it was cancelling over 200 flights from London to destinations around Europe including Italy, France, Austria, Belgium and Germany.

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Speaking about the decision, the Ryanair group CEO, Michael O’Leary, stated that their focus at this time is on minimising any risk to their people and passengers, he said: “While we are heavily booked over the next two weeks, there has been a notable drop in forward bookings towards the end of Mar, into early Apr. It makes sense to selectively prune our schedule to and from those airports where travel has been most affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.”

Ryanair notified passengers that it was reducing its short-haul flight program mainly to and from Italy.

He added that the firm had seen a significant step up in passenger no-shows on flights, particularly from and within Italy. Mr O’Leary also expects that the Covid-19 virus will result in further EU airline failures over the coming weeks. He said: “This is a time for calm. We will make sensible cuts to our schedules over the comings weeks to reflect weaker bookings, and changing travel patterns.

“All affected customers will be advised of any schedule changes at least 14 days in advance. While 80 per cent of people who contract Covid-19 suffer only mild symptoms, the risk of infection can be significantly reduced by frequent handwashing with soap and water.

“We will continue to comply fully with guidelines from National Governments, the WHO and EASA as they are updated on a regular basis. We will update the market in due course on any significant developments.”

Stating that it does not expect these cancellations to have a material impact on current year (end Mar 2020) guidance, Mr O’Leary added that it is far too early to speculate what impact the Covid-19 outbreak will have on FY21 earnings.

The company confirmed it will continue to monitor bookings carefully and will continue to flex its schedules in response to this developing situation, adding that it is working closely with relevant authorities and is following all guidelines provided by WHO and EASA to ensure the health and wellbeing of our people and our customers.

Citing that a daily Covid-19 action meeting across all areas of the airline has been initiated since Monday 24th Feb, Ryanair stated that it is focusing on maintaining operational efficiency and cost-saving to address the current downturn in business caused by the Covid-19 Virus, including allocating annual leave and/or unpaid leave to pilots and cabin crew and putting a recruitment, promotion and pay freeze across its entire network.

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