Monday 16 March 2020 10:46 am

Ryanair to ground the majority of its fleet amid European travel bans

Ryanair will ground the majority of its fleet in the next week as travel bans across Europe take effect.

The low-cost airline said that even in countries where the fleet had not been grounded, social distancing restrictions would make flying impractical, if not, impossible.

Read more: Airline stocks in freefall as travel restrictions take hold

For April and May, Ryanair expects to reduce its seat capacity by 80 per cent and said “a full grounding of the fleet cannot be ruled out.”

The airline also announced that it would be waiving its flight change fee for bookings in April.

A number of European countries have imposed flight bans of varying degrees. Over the weekend, Germany closed its borders to Austria, Switzerland and France.

The group said it would be taking immediate action to reduce operating expenses and cash flow.

“This will involve grounding surplus aircraft, deferring all capex and share buybacks, freezing recruitment and discretionary spending,” the airline said. It added that it would be implementing voluntary leave options, temporarily suspending employment contracts, and reducing working hours and payments.

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Shares in Ryanair are down 19.68 per cent.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “Ryanair is taking all actions necessary to cut operating expenses, and improve cash flows at each of our airlines. Ryanair is a resilient airline group, with a very strong balance sheet, and substantial cash liquidity, and we can, and will, with appropriate and timely action, survive through a prolonged period of reduced or even zero flight schedules, so that we are adequately prepared for the return to normality, which will come about sooner rather than later as EU Governments take unprecedented action to restrict the spread of Covid-19”.

Earlier today, Easyjet joined Virgin Atlantic in calling for help as people across the world stop traveling. Stocks are down 23.11 per cent.

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