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Winter Will be a Write Off: Ryanair and Finnair Cut Flights as Travel Restrictions Slam Demand

Winter Will be a Write Off: Ryanair and Finnair Cut Flights as Travel Restrictions Slam Demand

Finnish Cabin Crew Association, SLSY

The chief executive of Ryanair has hit out at governments for imposing “non-scientific” quarantine measures that are effectively killing off any travel demand. Michael O’Leary said the low-cost airline had cut its annual passenger forecast by a further 10 million on the back of a slower than expected return of travel demand which is driven in part by rapidly changing travel restrictions and quarantine measures which are often implemented with just a few hours notice.

In July, the airline said it was targeting an annual passenger count of 60 million but this has now been revised down to 50 million. Even when lockdown measures were in force across many European countries in May, Ryanair had hoped to carry as many as 80 million passengers but O’Leary now believes the 2020/2021 winter season will “effectively be a write off”.

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Photo Credit: Ryanair

Although the airline has avoided many of the 3,000 redundancies it originally predicted, bases could be closed across Europe and cabin crew and pilots forced to take unpaid leave until travel demand returns. O’Leary did not, however, rule out making more redundancies if the situation deteriorated still further.

“We’re probably looking at closing more bases and withdrawing more capacity in those countries where you’re operating completely defective and non-scientific quarantines,” O’Leary said in an interview with Reuters.

He slammed “chopping and changing” quarantine rules that he put down to “largely political mismanagement”. O’Leary was particularly critical of the British government which has refused to implement airport COVID-19 testing, citing outdated and inaccurate modelling data for its reluctance to embrace testing measures that have been successfully implemented in Germany and elsewhere.

Finnair was careful not to criticise any government but the airline said on Wednesday that it intends to cut the number of flights planned for October by more than half. The Finnish flag carrier had hoped to operate up to 200 flights per day but this now been slashed to between 70-80 daily flights.

“As travel restrictions have a direct impact on demand, operating the traffic programme we published earlier is unfortunately not feasible,” explained Finnair’s chief commercial officer, Ole Orvér.

The airline will serve just 42 destinations in October, with route restarts to destinations like Barcelona, St Petersburg and Stuttgart further postponed. Long-haul flights will continue to focus on destinations with a strong cargo demand in order to offset losses from lack of customer demand.

easyJet has also cut capacity on the back of waning travel demand, while Wizz Air says it will delay the launch of a subsidiary based in Abu Dhabi because the emirate remains closed to tourists.

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