Ryanair has slashed its annual traffic forecast by approximately five million passengers, saying that fresh COVID-19-related lockdowns in Ireland and Britain and Ireland will leave the countries with "few, if any" flights.
The Irish and British governments have said that the rapid spread of a new, more transmissible coronavirus variant has forced strict curbs on travel and that they are distributing vaccines as fast as they receive them.
The British and Irish measures "will result in few, if any, flights being operated to/from Ireland or the UK from the end of January until such time as these...travel restrictions are removed," Ryanair said in a statement.
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The airline will significantly reduce its flight schedules from Jauuary. 21 until the end of the current lockdown, it said.
Ryanair said that, as a result, it has cut its traffic forecast for its financial year, which ends on March 31, from its previous forecast of "below 35 million" to between 26 and 30 million passengers.
"Ryanair does not expect these flight cuts and further traffic reductions will materially affect its net loss for the year to 31 March 2021 since many of these flights would have been loss making," the statement said.
It added that air traffic in January will fall to under 1.25 million passengers, and that the new COVID-19 restrictions could cut February and March traffic to as little as 500,000 passengers each month.
The Irish government said on Wednesday January 6 that people should remain home except for essential journeys until at least the end of January, but deputy prime minister Leo Varadkar said that hospitality businesses need to face the likelihood that they will be closed until the end of March.
Meanwhile, the British government introduced legislation on Wednesday January 6 that will enable its current lockdown to remain in place until the end of March, although Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that he does not expect the full national lockdown to continue until then.