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Ryanair to cancel quarter of Italian flights as coronavirus outbreak dents bookings

The Irish carrier said around 25% of flights to Italy between 17 March and 8 April will be cancelled in response to what it said was a “significant drop in bookings” and a large number of passenger no-shows

Ryanair Holdings plc - Ryanair to cancel quarter of Italian flights as coronavirus outbreak dents bookings

Ryanair Holdings plc (LON:RYA) is planning to cancel up to a quarter of its flights to Italy for three weeks in response to a coronavirus outbreak in the north of the country.

In an announcement at 4pm on Monday, the budget carrier said around 25% of flights between 17 March and 8 April will be cancelled in response to what it said was a “significant drop in bookings” over the period as holidaymakers avoided the country as a result of the virus.

READ: Ryanair, Wizz Air boost January bookings as Europe not hit by coronavirus risk

The company also highlighted a high number of passenger no-shows for its flights, particularly from and within Italy.

Ryanair does not expect the cancellation to have “a material impact” on guidance for its current year, which ends on 31 March, and that it is “far too early to speculate” on how the outbreak could impact earnings for the coming year.

The firm has also begun holding daily meetings across all areas of its business in an attempt to maintain efficiency and save costs during the outbreak.

"Our focus at this time is on minimising any risk to our people and our passengers. While we are heavily booked over the next two weeks, there has been a notable drop in forward bookings towards the end of Mar, into early Apr. It makes sense to selectively prune our schedule to and from those airports where travel has been most affected by the Covid-19 outbreak”, said Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary.

“This is a time for calm. We will make sensible cuts to our schedules over the comings weeks to reflect weaker bookings, and changing travel patterns. All affected customers will be advised of any schedule changes at least 14 days in advance”, he added.

Coronavirus has spread to more than half of Italy’s 20 regions and infected more than 2,000 people. A number of towns in the country’s Lombardy and Veneto regions, where the outbreak first surfaced, have been placed under quarantine.

February traffic continues to grow

On Tuesday morning, traffic statistics from Ryanair showed that despite the risk of coronavirus passenger traffic had continued to expand in February.

Total passengers from the group were at 10.5mln, up 9% year-on-year (YOY), with a load factor of 96%.

The core Ryanair business carried 10mln passengers, 8% higher than a year ago, while the group’s Lauda airline increased its passenger numbers by 67% YOY to 500,000.

Rolling annual passengers numbers increased 8% to 153.8mln.

Shares in the airline were 3.9% higher at €12 in mid-morning trading on Tuesday.

Quick facts: Ryanair Holdings plc

Price: 12.75 EUR

LSE:RYA
Market: LSE
Market Cap: €13.89 billion
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