Ryanair has announced it is reducing its short haul flight programme, primarily to and from Italy, by up to 25% from Tuesday March 17 until Wednesday April 8 due to the COVID-19 virus.
The airline said that, over the past week, there has been a significant drop in bookings for the late March/early April period as a result of the virus, and noted that there has also been a significant increase in the number of passengers not showing up for flights, particularly from and within Italy.
Ryanair added that it will continue to monitor bookings carefully, and will continue to flex its schedules in response to the developing situation.
The airline's CEO, Michael O'Leary, stated, "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 March 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.
"We will continue to comply fully with guidelines from national governments, the WHO and EASA as they are updated on a regular basis. We will update the market in due course on any significant developments."
Aer Lingus has also seen a drop in bookings to Italy as a result of the virus and is likewise reducing the number of flights it is running to the country in March.
Aer Lingus chief executive Sean Doyle told The Irish Independent, "We are seeing a decline in bookings particularly into northern Italy. We've taken some short-term actions. We've reduced the flight programme by about seven flights in March. We're monitoring the situation very closely."
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