Ryanair Cuts Capacity As COVID-19 Uncertainty Hits Demand

Credit: Ryanair / Twitter

Ryanair plans to cut its flight capacity by 20% in September and October, citing waning forward bookings attributable to uncertainty over COVID-19 case rates in some EU countries.  

Forward bookings have “notably weakened” over the last 10 days as more countries across Europe have introduced fresh restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the airline said in a statement.

The LCC said most of the cuts would be frequency reductions rather than route closures, with a heavy focus on countries such as France, Spain and Sweden, where recent spikes in COVID-19 cases have led to increased travel restrictions. 

Ireland, which Ryanair claimed continued to impose “uniquely restrictive” quarantine measures on many other EU countries, will also be affected.

The ULCC had planned to operate about 70% of its normal schedule in September.

The planned cuts in September and October come days after France, the Netherlands and Malta were added to the list of countries from where travelers returning to the UK will have to enter 14 days of quarantine. The list already included Spain.

The UK’s decision has been heavily criticized by the airline and tourism industries as they try to ramp up their flight schedules after the unprecedented months-long shutdown.   

“Over the past two weeks as a number of EU countries have raised travel restrictions, forward bookings especially for business travel into September and October have been negatively affected, and it makes sense to reduce frequencies so that we tailor our capacity to demand over the next two months,” Ryanair said. “Proper testing at airports, and effective tracing (as is being conducted in Germany and Italy) is the only realistic and proportionate method of supervising safe intra-EU air travel while effectively limiting the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”   

According to Eurocontrol data, the number of flights operating in the week of Aug. 10-16 was 0.6% higher than the previous week at around 48.5% of 2019’s levels, helped by a strong 3.5% uptick on Sunday Aug. 16, which saw a daily number of flights at around 50% of 2019’s levels.  

Ryanair’s passenger traffic totaled 4.4 million in July with capacity at about 40%. The airline intended to increase flights to more than 60% of its normal schedule throughout August, operating more than 1,600 routes and in excess of 11,000 weekly flights.



Helen Massy-Beresford

Based in Paris, Helen Massy-Beresford covers European and Middle Eastern airlines, the European Commission’s air transport policy and the air cargo industry for Aviation Week & Space Technology and Aviation Daily.

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.