Ryanair cuts winter schedule, confirms base closures

The Irish ULCC is making big cuts to its winter flight schedule and shutting three bases.

Ryanair is reducing the number of flights it is offering this winter by a third and closing three bases because of COVID-19 travel restrictions across the EU.

The Irish airline last month cut October capacity down to around 40% of normal levels and now plans to extend the capacity cut for the full winter season. The ULCC had previously expected to operate at 60% of 2019 levels between November and March.

Additionally, bases in Cork (ORK), Shannon (SNN) and Toulouse (TLS) will be closed during winter alongside “significant” base aircraft cuts in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Portugal and Spain.

Ryanair expects to maintain up to 65% of its winter route network, but with reduced frequencies.

“We have continued to flex our capacity in September and October to reflect both market conditions and changing government restrictions, with the objective of sustaining a 70% load factor, which allows us operate as close to breakeven as possible and minimize cash burn,” group CEO Michael O'Leary said.

While the COVID situation remains fluid and hard to predict, we must now cut our full year traffic forecast to 38 million guests. While we deeply regret these winter schedule cuts, they have been forced upon us by government mismanagement of EU air travel.”
O'Leary said the company hopes to maintain “as large a schedule as we can sensibly operate” in order to “keep our aircraft, our pilots and our cabin crew current and employed while minimizing job losses.”

However, he added: “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.”

ORK MD Niall MacCarthy said he was “devastated” that Ryanair will close the airport’s base and cease 13 routes.

“We have done everything in our power at Cork Airport to retain the base here and the connectivity that it delivers for the South of Ireland region,” he said.

“However, since the pandemic many Ryanair flights to and from Cork have been operating with fewer than 10 passengers.

“The Irish aviation sector has been decimated by COVID-19 and the country needs to get to a position where we have the appropriate travel policies in place to enable Ireland to co-exist with the virus whilst safely re-opening our vital air connectivity.”

MacCarthy pointed out that ORK was Ireland’s fastest-growing airport before COVID-19 but said it is now looking at a 95% reduction in traffic levels this coming winter compared to last year.

Despite the base closure, Ryanair will still retain three routes serving ORK over the winter to London Stansted (STN), Katowice (KTW) and Gdansk (GDN). Aer Lingus will also fly to London Heathrow (LHR) and Amsterdam (AMS) and KLM to AMS.

Photo credit: Nigel Howarth / Aviation Week Network

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