Ryanair, currently the biggest airline group in Europe in terms of passenger numbers, announced significant changes to its flight schedules amidst the coronavirus outbreak. Most importantly, the low-cost carrier anticipates that the governmental travel restrictions in the European Union will result in the group stopping flights altogether.
The Dublin-based airline group indicated that it would cut flight schedules by 80% from March 18 until March 2020. However, starting from March 24, 2020, the group expects to ground “most, if not all” flights. The only connections that Ryanair anticipates to operate are between the United Kingdom and Ireland to “maintain essential connectivity,” according to the Irish airline.
In a separate update to its investors, Ryanair stated that it is taking action to reduce operating costs. Amongst the measures to do so, the low-cost carrier indicated that it would ground surplus aircraft, defer its capital expenditure and share buybacks and freeze recruitment. In addition, the group’s employees would be offered voluntary leave options and see “significant reductions” to working hours and payments. Temporary contract suspensions were also on the table, indicated the update.
Chief executive Michael O’Leary stated that the group was “resilient, with a very strong balance sheet and substantial cash liquidity,” with about $4.3 billion (€4 billion) of cash as of March 12, 2020. However, Ryanair has seen a substantial decline in bookings over the last two weeks. It expects the trend to continue “for the foreseeable future.”