British Airways and budget rival Ryanair have cancelled hundreds of flights as demand for travel significantly dropped amid the worldwide fears of deadly coronavirus outbreak. According to reports, British Airways is cancelling 216 flights from March 16 to 28 from London to destinations including New York, Italy, France, Austria, Belgium, Germany, and Ireland. Meanwhile, Ryanair will cut up to 25 per cent of its flights in and out of Italy from March 17 to April 8 in the wake of coronavirus dread which has led to many tourists and business people cancelling their foreign travel.
This came as the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said that there could be “very significant expansion” of the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the UK where at least 39 people have contracted the fatal virus. According to reports, Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary said that the motto behind their recent move remains the safety of both, the passengers and employees. Furthermore, he has said that there has been a “notable drop” in forwarding bookings towards the end of March, into early April.
Therefore, according to O'Leary, it is “sensible” for the airlines to selectively prune their schedule to and from those airports where travel has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak. However, Ryanair declined to state how many flights or passengers would be affected by the move. However, international reports suggest that cancellation of flights will not damage the results of the financial year which ends on March 31. Meanwhile, British Airways has said that it would contact its customers on the cancelled flights and offer them rebooking on to other carriers, refunds, or another flight with the airlines for a later date of travel.
Willie Walsh, boss of IAG which owns British Airways had reportedly warned last week that as well as all China flights being suspended after there had been a “significant fall-off in demand in Italy”. Due to the coronavirus which has now spread to over 60 countries and more than 90,000 confirmed cases worldwide, Airline shares have also fallen sharply. This has further raised concerns about the potential economic effects of the virus.