The fallout from the COVID-19 novel Coronavirus outbreak has finally hit European low-cost airline Ryanair. The Dublin-based airline said on Tuesday that it had cut as much as 25 per cent of it schedules across it short-haul European network but in particular to and from Italy after a significant spike in Coronavirus cases and deaths in the country.
Ryanair said it had seen a “significant drop” in bookings for late March through to early April and had taken the decision to trim schedules for a three week period. Michael O’Leary, the airline’s chief executive said flights remained “heavily booked” for the next two weeks but there had been a “notable drop” in forward bookings.
In addition, Ryanair also said it was having to contend with a significant rise in passenger “no shows” – especially on flights to and from destinations in Italy.
To combat the effects of changing passenger demand because of the Coronavirus outbreak, Ryanair said it would initiate “rolling schedule cuts” as booking patterns developed. A COVID-19 action meeting is being held daily at the airline’s headquarters to monitor and respond to the changing situation.
Ryanair has already asked both its pilots and cabin crew to take unpaid leave and is encouraging staffers to take annual leave. Recruitment and promotion opportunities have been put on hold, while pay has also been frozen.
“Our focus at this time is on minimising any risk to our people and our passengers,” O’Leary said in a statement. “It makes sense to selectively prune our schedule to and from those airports where travel has been most affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.”
While not expecting any material impact on its full-year earnings for the current financial year, O’Leary said it was far too early to speculate what impact COVID-19 could have on its business for 2020/2021.
British Airways has also announced hundreds of cancellations across its short-haul European network, as well as some flights to and from New York. It follows similar announcements from the likes of the Lufthansa Group, easyJet and SAS.
O’Leary suggested bookings could “rapidly” recover if the outbreak “settles down” by Easter.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.