By Edward Thicknesse, cityam.com
Ryanair has cut its traffic forecast for the full financial year to 26m-30m passengers, just a fifth of last year’s number, amid the new coronavirus lockdowns.
The Irish carrier said that due to new restrictions in the UK, Ireland, and parts of the EU, it would reduce flights from 21 January.
Few, if any, flights will operate from the end of the month until the “draconian restrictions” are removed, it added.
Hungarian flier Wizz Air also announced that it would reduce services to 25 per cent in January, down from 35 per cent last month.
Ryanair said that it was expecting 1.25m passengers to fly with the airline in January, but that this could fall as low as 500,000 in February and March.
The plunge in passenger numbers recalls last spring, when the carrier was forced to ground its entire fleet for several months.
At the time, Ryanair estimated that the crisis would knock passenger numbers for the full year by 60 per cent.
The airline also called on the governments in Ireland and the UK to accelerate the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine.
While the UK is one of the world’s leading countries in terms of the number of people it has already vaccinated – around 1.3m – the Irish government has administered the jab to just 4,000 of its 5m population.
A spokesperson for Ryanair said: “The WHO have previously confirmed that governments should do everything possible to avoid brutal lockdowns, because lockdowns “do not get rid of the virus”.
“Ireland’s Covid-19 travel restrictions are already the most stringent in Europe, and so these new flight restrictions are inexplicable and ineffective when Ireland continues to operate an open border between the Republic and the North of Ireland.
“Since Ireland’s third lockdown will not get rid of the Covid virus, there is an onus on the Irish Government to accelerate the rollout of vaccines, and the fact that the Danish Government, with a similar 5m population, has already vaccinated 10 times more citizens than Ireland shows that emergency action is needed to speed Covid vaccinations in Ireland.”
There were over 1,000 Covid deaths in the UK yesterday, and a further 17 in Ireland.
Wizz Air bullish despite cuts
Even though the newest set of restrictions has forced the carrier into more cuts, Wizz Air chief Josef Varadi was this morning bullish over prospects for the summer.
“I think if restrictions get removed by summer, I would say that summer 2021 would not be far away from summer 2019 from our perspective,” he said. “But you would not see that happening at many of the other airlines.”
His words echoed comments Varadi made to City AM back in November, when he backed the airline to bounce back swiftly after the pandemic.
The carrier has been one of the few winners from the crisis. Since last March, it has opened 260 new routes and 13 bases, including one at Gatwick, London’s second biggest airport, where it is keen to expand.
Next week will also see the opening of Wizz Air’s Abu Dhabi-based regional subsidiary, a move designed to expand the carrier’s presence in the Gulf.