Ryanair may ground the majority of its aircraft fleet across Europe over the next seven to 10 days, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the company said in a statement on Monday. For April and May, the company expects to reduce its seat capacity by up to 80 percent and informed that a full grounding of its fleet cannot be ruled out.
According to the statement, unannounced government travel restrictions taken over the past week, due to the spread of the Covid-19 virus, have had a significant and negative impact on the schedules of Ryanair Group Airlines (including Buzz and Lauda).
“At the Ryanair Group Airlines, we are doing everything we can to meet the challenge posed by the Covid-19 outbreak, which has over the last week caused extraordinary and unprecedented travel restrictions to be imposed by National Governments, in many cases with minimal or zero notice,” Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary said.
As underlined in the statement, over the past seven days, Italy, Malta, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Greece, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Poland, Norway and Cyprus have imposed flight bans of varying degrees, from all flights to/from the country, or banned flights to/from countries with high risk of Covid infection. Moreover, over the weekend, Poland and Norway banned all international flights.
The company informed that it is now focusing on completing as much of its scheduled flying program as is permitted by national governments over the next seven days, so it can repatriate customers, where possible, even as flight bans are imposed and ATC and essential airport services are reduced.
Ryanair has seen a substantial decline in bookings over the last two weeks and expects the pattern to continue. The company is taking immediate action to reduce operating expenses, and improve cash flows, which involves grounding surplus aircraft, deferring all capex and share buybacks, freezing recruitment and discretionary spending, and implementing a series of voluntary leave options, temporarily suspending employment contracts, and significant reductions to working hours and payments.
Also on Monday, Ryanair cancelled all flights to/from Spain (until March 19) and Poland (until March 31) due to government decisions of to “lock down” both countries.