Ryanair, the biggest airline in Europe by passenger numbers, plans to cut up to 80% of its flights in April and May 2020, due to multiple travel restrictions imposed by several European countries following the coronavirus outbreak. The carrier states the possibility of grounding the fleet completely cannot be ruled out too. 

Ryanair plans to ground the majority of its aircraft fleet across Europe in the next seven to ten days, the company revealed in a statement on March 16, 2020. In April and May, the company expects to have 80% of its aircraft grounded. 

While some planes remain in service in several European countries for now, Covid-19 spread prevention rules and in particular social distancing restrictions might make flying “impractical, if not, impossible”, Ryanair warns. The carrier does not rule out grounding 100% of its fleet. 

The decision comes in response to the coronavirus Covid-19 rapid spread in Europe and associated travel restrictions imposed by European and foreign governments. Ryanair estimates that over the past week, 14 countries of the markets it serves have imposed restrictions of varying degrees: from flight bans affecting “high risk” destinations to all flight bans to/from a certain country. Some countries, while refrained from travel bans, have made “severe” reductions of ATC and essential airport services, according to the airline. 

“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 Holdings chief Michael O’Leary said. 

Ryanair’s ticket bookings have fallen “substantially” over the past two weeks, according to the airline. The tendency is expected to last for the “foreseeable future”. 

In addition to the upcoming massive flight cuts and fleet groundings, the company is also reducing its workforce through a series of voluntary leave options, temporarily suspending employment contracts, and significantly reducing working hours and payments. 

Other measures to reduce its operating expenses and improve cash flows include grounding of surplus aircraft, deferring all capital expenditure and share buybacks, freezing recruitment and discretionary spending. The Ryanair Group has cash equivalents of over €4 billion as of March 12, 2020.