Low-cost carriers Ryanair and Easyjet have announced huge capacity cuts for the coming weeks, with both saying they may be forced to ground most or all of their fleets.
It comes as the coronavirus pandemic pushes the global aviation industry into an unprecedented crisis.
CAPA, a market intelligence provider, today warned that most of the world’s airlines risk going bankrupt within two months as they are forced to suspend flights, reduce capacity and ground aircraft.
Ryanair said in a statement:
“Over the past seven days, Italy, Malta, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Greece, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Poland, Norway and Cyprus have imposed flight bans of varying degrees, from all flights to/from the country, or banned flights to/from countries with high risk of Covid infection.
“Ryanair expects the result of these restrictions will be the grounding of the majority of its aircraft fleet across Europe over the next seven to ten days.
“In those 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 now expects to reduce its seat capacity by up to 80 per cent, and a full grounding of the fleet cannot be ruled out.”
“Due to the unprecedented level of travel restrictions being imposed by governments in response to the coronavirus pandemic and significantly reduced levels of customer demand, Easyjet has undertaken further significant cancellations.
“These actions will continue on a rolling basis for the foreseeable future and could result in the grounding of the majority of the Easyjet fleet.
“Easyjet will continue to operate rescue flights for short periods where we can, in order to repatriate customers.”
Customers whose flights are cancelled are entitled to a refund or alternative flight.
However many airlines have begun asking passengers not to call their customer service agents unless they are due to fly within the next 72 hours, as they handle huge demand.
Easyjet has waived flight change fees for all new and existing bookings indefinitely, while Ryanair will allow passengers flying to any destination between March 13 and March 31 to change their flights free of charge.
Around the world, dramatic reductions in service have been announced for the coming month.
Low-cost carrier Norwegian has cancelled all intercontinental flights, the bulk of its business, with the exception of services between Scandinavia and Thailand which will operate until the end of March. It is also set to lay-off 90 per cent of its staff.
Hungary-based Wizz Air, a major carrier at London Luton, has cut all flights to Poland, Italy and Israel.
Full-service airlines are also being hit hard by the crisis.
IAG, parent company of British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Level and Vueling, will cut capacity by 75 per cent in April and May, while the Air France-KLM group is set to cut capacity by between 80 and 90 per cent.
US carriers Delta, American Airlines and United have announced big transatlantic service reductions as a US travel ban on arrivals from 28 European countries, including the UK and Ireland, comes into force.