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Ryanair to cut winter flights due to weaker bookings

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Ryanair has announced it will cut its winter flight schedule from a 60% to 40% capacity due to weaker bookings as EU governments impose tougher travel restrictions.

The budget airline has today released its winter schedule (November to March) which will take its capacity down from 60% to 40% of the prior year.

It said this is to reflect increased flight restrictions imposed by Eu governments, with air travel to and from much of central Europe, the UK, Ireland, Austria, Belgium and Portugal being heavily curtailed.

This has caused forward bookings to weaken slightly in October, but materially in November and December.

However, it expects to maintain up to 65% of its winter route network with reduced frequencies as it operates a 70% load factor.

As well as winter base closures in Cork, Shannon and Toulouse, Ryanair has also announced significant base aircraft cuts in Belgium, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Vienna.

It added that with the reduced winter capacity, it expects full year traffic to fall to approximately 38 million flyers, adding that it could be revised down “if EU governments continue to mismanage air travel and impose more lockdowns this winter”.

‘Deeply regret winter schedule cuts’

Ryanair’s group CEO, Michael O’Leary, said: “We have continued to flex our capacity in September and October to reflect both market conditions and changing government restrictions, with the objective of sustaining a 70% load factor, which allows us to operate as close to breakeven as possible and minimise cash burn. While the Covid situation remains fluid and hard to predict, we must now cut our full year traffic forecast to 38m guests.

“While we deeply regret these winter schedule cuts they have been forced upon us by government mismanagement of EU air travel. Our focus continues to be on maintaining as large a schedule as we can sensibly operate to keep our aircraft, our pilots and our cabin crew current and employed while minimising job losses. It is inevitable, given the scale of these cutbacks, that we will be implementing  more unpaid leave, and job sharing this winter in those bases where we have agreed reduced working time and pay, but this is a better short-term outcome than mass job losses.

“There will regrettably be more redundancies at those small number of cabin crew bases, where we have still not secured agreement on working time and pay cuts, which is the only alternative. We continue to actively manage our cost base to be prepared for the inevitable rebound and recovery of short haul air travel in Europe once an effective Covid-19 vaccine is developed.”

O’Leary urged EU governments to immediately, and fully, adopt the EU Commission’s Traffic Light System, which allows for safe air travel between EU states on a regional basis to continue for those countries and regions of Europe, which are able to demonstrate that their Covid case rates are less than 50 per 100,000 population.