Europe’s largest low-cost airline said it would ground “most, if not all” of its fleet of over 450 aircraft by March 24. Ryanair warned it was considering the drastic move on Monday after initially planning a capacity cut of up 80 per cent. In the last few days, however, the situation in Europe from the Coronavirus pandemic has significantly worsened.
The airline has been slowly cutting back capacity from this morning with the full grounding expected to be implemented by midnight on March 24. In a statement, Ryanair said it may operate a “very small” number of flights between the United Kingdom and Ireland to maintain “essential connectivity”.
“Ryanair will continue to stay in close contact with the Foreign Ministries of all EU Governments on the repatriation of EU citizens, and where possible we may operate rescue flights to support this repatriation,” the statement continued.
Earlier today, the Lufthansa Group said it had so far operated 139 special repatriation flights which have brought home around 20,000 stranded tourists. Similar operations are being planned or operated by a number of other European airlines including Finnair and British Airways.
Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines and Air Dolomiti, which are all part of the Lufthansa Group, have announced complete fleet groundings in the last couple of days. The Scandinavian airline SAS has also announced it will shutter its operation in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said on Monday that the airline was taking “appropriate and timely action” in order to “survive through a prolonged period of reduced or even zero flight schedules.”
O’Leary commented that he hoped a return to normality would “come about sooner rather than later as EU Governments take unprecedented action to restrict the spread of Covid-19”.
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.