Irish low-cost carrier flies to Milan, Pisa and Bari from Liverpool John Lennon Airport and says it will cut flights to Italy by 25% for a three-week period. Tony McDonough reports
Ryanair is slashing the number of flights to Italy as the amid the worsening coronavirus crisis.
And the low-cost airline’s chief executive Michael O’Leary is warning the huge drop in bookings as a result of the spread of the virus may result in the collapse of European airlines over the coming weeks.
Ryanair flies to more than 30 destinations from Liverpool John Lennon Airport, including three routes to Italy – Milan, Pisa and Bari. It says that from Tuesday, March 17 to Wednesday, April 8, it will cut flights to Italy by 25%.
Of the 2,199 cases of coronavirus so far identified in the EU, 1,689 of them have been in Italy. This compares to a figure of just 36 for the UK, although experts expect this to rise significantly in the coming days and weeks.
Over the past week, Ryanair has seen a significant drop in bookings over that late March/early April period. There has also been a significant step up in passenger no-shows on flights, particularly from and within Italy.
Dublin-based Ryanair says with €4bn in cash on its balance sheet and mainly debt-free, the company is well positioned to withstand any financial shock caused by the the spread of the virus. However, it believes the crisis will “will result in further EU airline failures over the coming weeks”.
Mr O’Leary added: “”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 April.
“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.”