Europe’s largest budget airline Ryanair announced on Monday that it will cancel up to 25 percent of its flights to and from Italy across Europe due to a novel coronavirus outbreak in the country.
The flights to be cancelled cover a 3-week period extending from March 17 to April 8, said the Ireland-headquartered airline in a statement, adding that all the affected customers have been notified about the cancellations.
The statement said that over the past week Ryanair has seen a significant drop in bookings of flights to and from Italy over the late-March and early-April period while there has also been a significant increase in passenger no-shows on flights, particularly from and within Italy.
“Ryanair will continue to monitor bookings carefully, and will continue to flex its schedules in response to this developing situation,” said the airline, adding that it is working closely with relevant authorities and is following all guidelines provided by the World Health Organization and European Aviation Safety Agency to ensure the health and wellbeing of its employees and customers.
“Our focus at this time is on minimising any risk to our people and our passengers,” said Ryanair Group CEO Michael O’Leary in the statement.
“This is a time for calm. We will make sensible cuts to our schedules over the coming 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,” he said.
While expecting that the COVID-19 will result in further European Union airline failures over the coming weeks, Ryanair said that it does not expect these cancellations of flights to and from Italy to have a material impact on the company’s guidance for the current fiscal year which will end on March 31, 2020.
However, it said that it is far too early to speculate what impact the COVID-19 outbreak will have on its earnings for the fiscal year 2021.
On Feb. 29, the Department of Health of Ireland reported the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the country. The patient, a man residing in the eastern part of Ireland, was confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus after he travelled back from a skiing trip in northern Italy.
The case has led to a decision made by the Irish health department on Sunday to shut down a local secondary school for 14 days because of the close contacts of the teachers and pupils of the school with the patient, who is currently receiving medical treatment at a Dublin hospital. Enditem