MIAMI – Ryanair (FR) announces a major reduction of operations in Europe in little more than a week as an urgent action after several countries have banned flights to and from the region.

The airline said in a statement that the restrictions in Italy, Malta, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Greece, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Poland, Norway and Cyprus had “a significant and negative impact on the schedules” the carrier serivces.

As a result, the Irland-based carrier will ground “the majority of its aircraft fleet across Europe over the next 7 to 10 days. In those countries where the fleet is not grounded, social distancing restrictions may make flying to all intents and purposes, impractical, if not, impossible”.

“Our priority remains the health and welfare of our people and our passengers, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that they can be reunited with their friends and families during these difficult times,” said Michael O’Leary, FR’s CEO.

Expected cut flights and staff actions

In addition, for April and May, the airline will reduce its seat capacity by up to 80% and does not rule out “a full grounding of the fleet”.

The actions to reduce operating expenses and improve cash flows involve grounding surplus aircraft, deferring all capex, share buybacks and discretionary spending.

In staff matters, FR is working alongside its workers and unions to freeze recruitment, implement voluntary leave options, temporarily suspend employment contracts and apply significant reductions to working hours and payments.

Financial consequences and focus

“The Ryanair Group has strong liquidity, with strong cash and cash equivalents of over €4bn as at 12 March. Our focus now is on completing as much of the scheduled flying program as is permitted by National Governments over the next 7 days,” said the statement.

For those reasons, FR registered a substantial decline in bookings over the last 2 weeks and it expects it to continue.

“We are communicating with all affected passengers by email and SMS, and we are organising rescue flights to repatriate customers, even in those countries where travel bans have been imposed,” said O’Leary.

Other announcements

The carrier had previously reduce flights to/from Spain from March 16 to March 19 because of the Spanish Government’s lock down. Also announced was the cancelation of all routes to/from Poland during March 15 and March 31 due to the Poland Government’s lock down.

On March 9, the Irish airline announced more cuts to its flight schedules to/from Northern Italy for national government concern, too.

As a response, FR removed flight change fees on all booking in April and suggested its customers to not purchase in April. Further, it will continue to closely work with state authorities and comply with WHO and EASA guidelines to preserve the safety and well-being of its staff and passengers.

It is expected that the company will add in Summer 2020 14 new routes to/from Greece and four new routes to Armenia, if the circumstances allow it. The Summer 2020 schedule’s implementation translates to 35,000 jobs in 21 UK airports, according to Kenny Jacobs, FR’s CMO.