Ryanair has announced that it expects to half the majority of its flights over the next week or ten days and will reduce 80% or more of its flights in April and May.
In a statement, the airline revealed that social distancing restrictions will make flying "impractical, if not impossible" and that travel restrictions associated with the Covid-19 virus have had a significant and negative impact on flight schedules.
Over the past week, there have been flight bans imposed in several countries including Italy, Malta, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Greece, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Poland, Norway and Cyprus.
"Ryanair is taking immediate action to reduce operating expenses and improve cash flows," a statement read.
"This will involve grounding surplus aircraft, deferring all capex and share buybacks, freezing recruitment and discretionary spending and implementing a series of voluntary leave options, temporarily suspending employment contracts and significant reductions to working hours and payments."
The statement added that Ryanair is “working with our people and our unions across all EU countries to address this extraordinary and unprecedented Covid-19 event, the impact and duration of which is, at this time, impossible to determine”.
The airline's focus is now on "completing as much of the scheduled flying program as is permitted by national governments over the next seven days, so that we can repatriate customers, where possible, even as flight bans are imposed and ATC and essential airport services are reduced.
“We have seen a substantial decline in bookings over the last 2 weeks, and we expect this will continue for the foreseeable future. We will continue to monitor demand, as well as Government flight restrictions, and we will continue to make further cuts to schedules as necessary.
“We are doing everything we can to meet the challenge posed by the Covid-19 outbreak, which has over the last week caused extraordinary and unprecedented travel restrictions to be imposed by National Governments, in many cases with minimal or zero notice,” chief executive Michael O’Leary said.
“We are communicating with all affected passengers by email and SMS, and we are organising rescue flights to repatriate customers, even in those countries where travel bans have been imposed. 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 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”.