European low-cost giant Ryanair has today announced it will suspend up to 25% of its short haul flights to and from Italy. The schedule changes are due to take effect from the 17th March until the 8th April, and are in response to the novel coronavirus COVID-19.. All passengers affected by the changes will be contacted by email today.
Ryanair cuts Italy by a quarter
The Irish budget airline Ryanair has announced this afternoon that it will cut flights to and from Italy from the middle of this month for a period of three weeks. The airline said it will reduce short haul; flights by up to 25%, beginning March 17th and slated to last until April 8th.
Ryanair flies to 30 destinations in Italy, 14 of which are bases for the airline. Ryanair Group CEO, Michael O’Leary issued a statement in relation to the flight cuts, saying,
“Our focus at this time is on minimising any risk to our people and our passengers. 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.
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% of people who contract Covid-19 suffer only mild symptoms, the risk of infection can be significantly reduced by frequent hand washing 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.”
It’s a somber and mature statement from the usually outspoken CEO. However, the airline is clear that the flight reductions are not due to fears over the spread of the virus, but more a response to a drop in bookings. It also noted that there has been a significant increase in no-shows, particularly from and within Italy.
Ryanair assures investors of its survival
Airlines around the world are starting to feel the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. Even those who had been relatively insulated from the initial shock due to not operating to or from China are now starting to feel the pinch, as the virus takes hold in Europe and other places around the world.
Even when Italy’s diagnosed cases were just a handful, European airline stocks began to tumble. Investors anticipated a slowdown in passenger traffic, and at this point it looks like their concerns were well-founded.
However, Ryanair assures its investors it’s in a great position to survive and even to thrive in these uncertain times. It says these cancellations won’t have a significant impact on its earnings, although it’s too early to say what the long term outlook will be. In a statement seen by Simple Flying, the airline said,
“Ryanair remains one of the strongest airlines in the industry with €4bn in cash on its balance sheet, industry leading unit costs, 90% of the fleet is owned, and is mainly debt free. We expect that this Covid-19 Virus will result in further EU airline failures over the coming weeks.”
While that’s not necessarily the positive outlook we’re all rooting for, it’s probably not far off the mark. Ryanair says it will continue to monitor the situation in Europe, and may flex its schedules further over the coming weeks.
Have you been affected by flight disruption due to COVID-19? Let us know in the comments.