Ryanair has cut planned capacity this winter to less than half of last year’s levels, and is now forecasting to carry just 38 million passengers over the full financial year.

The carrier had previously planned to operate at 60 per cent capacity over the winter period, but said that market conditions and changing government restrictions had forced it to revise this down to 40 per cent.

Bases at Cork, Shannon and Toulouse will be closed this winter, and there will be significant cuts at other bases in Belgium, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Vienna.

Ryanair said it expects to operate up to 65 per cent of its winter route network, at reduced frequencies, and plans to operate at load factors of round 70 per cent – a level which allows the carrier “to operate as close to breakeven as possible and minimize cash burn”.

The carrier said that increased flight restrictions imposed by EU governments had “heavily curtailed” air travel to and from “much of Central Europe, the UK, Ireland, Austria, Belgium and Portugal”.

Ryanair Group CEO Michael O’Leary said that “While we deeply regret these winter schedule cuts they have been forced upon us by Government mismanagement of EU air travel”.

“Our focus continues to be on maintaining as large a schedule as we can sensibly operate to keep our aircraft, our pilots and our cabin crew current and employed while minimising job losses,” O’Leary continued.

“It is inevitable, given the scale of these cutbacks, that we will be implementing  more unpaid leave, and job sharing this winter in those bases where we have agreed reduced working time and pay, but this is a better short term outcome than mass job losses.

“There will regrettably be more redundancies at those small number of cabin crew bases, where we have still not secured agreement on working time and pay cuts, which is the only alternative. We continue to actively manage our cost base to be prepared for the inevitable rebound and recovery of short haul air travel in Europe once an effective Covid-19 vaccine is developed.

“In the meantime, we urge all EU Governments to immediately, and fully, adopt the EU Commission’s Traffic Light System, which allows for safe air travel between EU states on a regional basis to continue (without defective travel restrictions) for those countries and regions of Europe, who are able to demonstrate that their Covid case rates are less than 50 per 100,000 population.”