European carriers make substantial cuts

LCC Ryanair expects “the majority of its aircraft fleet across Europe” to be grounded within the next seven to 10 days in the wake of air travel restrictions imposed after the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

The Irish airline said in countries where the fleet is not grounded, social distancing restrictions “may make flying to all intents and purposes, impractical, if not, impossible.”

For April and May, Ryanair therefore expects to reduce its seat capacity by up to 80% and stressed that a full grounding of the fleet “cannot be ruled out.”

“Our priority remains the health and welfare of our people and our passengers, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that they can be reunited with their friends and families during these difficult times,” Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said.

“Ryanair is taking all actions necessary to cut operating expenses and improve cash flows at each of our airlines.”

The LCC said its focus over the next seven days would be to complete “as much of the scheduled flying program as is permitted” in order to repatriate passengers.

According to the latest data from OAG Schedules Analyser, Ryanair is this week scheduled to operate more than 1,050 routes and in excess of 9,000 flights.

Meanwhile, SAS Scandinavian Airlines has halted most of its operations from March 16 and will temporarily lay off up to 90% of its staff.

The company said the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak means demand for air travel is “essentially non-existent.” The staff cuts will affect about 10,000 workers.

“SAS is implementing these measures to be able to return to normal operation as soon as the situation permits,” the airline said.

Fellow Scandinavian carrier Finnair will also reduce approximately 90% of its normal capacity, compared with 2019, starting from the beginning of April 2020.

From April 1, the airline expects to be operating just 20 routes in order to maintain certain critical air and cargo supply connections for Finland.

Finnair CEO Topi Manner said: “We continue to follow the situation closely, adding routes and frequencies to the traffic program as demand returns. We hope to be able to return to normal operations as soon as the coronavirus situation alleviates.”

A statement from Air France-KLM said it would gradually reduce its flight activity “very significantly” over the next few days, with the number of available seat kilometers (ASK) potentially decreasing between 70-90%.

This reduction in capacity is currently scheduled to last two months. As a result, Air France will ground its entire Airbus A380 fleet and KLM its entire Boeing 747 fleet. Air France has nine A380s in service, while KLM has seven 747s.

Photo credit: Ryanair

David Casey

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