Ryanair has warned it will suspend all flights to Europe in the next seven to ten days as more countries continue to be hit by the deadly coronavirus.
It comes after the Foreign Commonwealth Office warned against all bust essential travel to several more popular tourist destinations including Malta and Morocco.
Over the past 7 days, Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Greece, 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.
Poland and Norway have now banned all international flights, while in other countries there has been a severe reduction of airport services.
The budget airline said it expects the result of these restrictions will be the grounding of the majority of its aircraft fleet across Europe over the next 7 to 10 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.
Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary said: "At the Ryanair Group Airlines, 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."
O'Leary said the spread of Covid-19 and associated Government travel restrictions, many of which have been imposed without notice, have had a significant and negative impact on the schedules of all Ryanair Group Airlines.
For April and May, the airline expects to reduce its seat capacity by up to 80%, adding that a full grounding of the fleet cannot be ruled out.
"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," O'Leary added.
"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".
Meanwhile, the company is also freezing recruitment, implementing a series of voluntary leave options, temporarily suspending employment contracts, and significant reductions to working hours and payments.
It comes after British Airways boss Alex Cruz revealed redundancies are inevitable on Friday, after the airline was forced to cancel hundreds of flights.
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