Coronavirus: Ryanair blames ‘mismanagement’ by governments as it cuts winter capacity

Ryanair has cut its winter flight capacity from 60% to 40% of the previous year’s level blaming “mismanagement” of air travel by EU governments.

The Dublin-based carrier said increased flight restrictions had caused travel to a number of countries to be “heavily curtailed” resulting in bookings to weaken “slightly” in October and “materially” in November and December.

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Its schedule for November to March will now see it operate 65% of its usual winter network, at reduced frequencies.

The airline said it now expects full-year traffic to fall to 38 million although that could be further revised downwards if EU governments “continue to mismanage air travel and impose more lockdowns this winter”.

That compares to just under 149 million in the year to the end of March 2020. Shares fell 3%.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “While we deeply regret these winter schedule cuts they have been forced upon us by government mismanagement of EU air travel.”

The carrier said travel to and from Central Europe, the UK, Ireland, Austria, Belgium and Portugal had been affected by the latest restrictions.

It will close its bases in Cork, Shannon, and Toulouse during the five-month winter period while operations will be scaled back at bases in Belgium, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Vienna.

Mr O’Leary said: “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.”

The airline chief executive urged EU governments to adopt a “traffic light system” set up by the European Commission to allow safe air travel between countries with low case rates.

Ryanair said earlier this year that it would have to cut up to 3,000 jobs as a result of COVID-19 but announced in July that this number would be significantly reduced as most pilots and cabin crew had agreed to pay cuts.

Aviation has been one of the sectors worst hit by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with Sky’s tracker of publicly-announced job cuts showing more than 30,000 lost.

In the UK, the government recently set up a taskforce to look into the use of testing to reduce quarantine times for travellers though it received a lukewarm reception from the industry, which has been calling for action for months.

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