BENGALURU/DUBLIN (Jan 7): Ryanair slashed its annual traffic forecast by around five million passengers on Thursday, saying fresh lockdowns in Britain and Ireland targeting a highly contagious new variant of Covid-19 would leave the countries with "few, if any" flights.
The Irish low-cost carrier, Europe's largest, also harshly criticised public health measures, saying Irish travel curbs were "inexplicable and ineffective" and called on Ireland and Britain to accelerate the pace of vaccine roll-outs.
Both governments have said the rapid spread of a new, more transmissible coronavirus variant forced strict curbs on travel and said they are distributing vaccines as fast as they receive them.
The British and Irish measures "will result in few, if any, flights being operated to/from Ireland or the UK from the end of January until such time as these draconian travel restrictions are removed", Ryanair said in a statement.
The airline will significantly reduce its flight schedules from Jan 21 until the end of the current lockdown, it said.
As a result, Ryanair said it had cut its traffic forecast for its financial year, which ends on March 31, from its current forecast of "below 35 million" to between 26 and 30 million passengers.
"Ryanair does not expect these flight cuts and further traffic reductions will materially affect its net loss for the year to March 31, 2021 since many of these flights would have been loss-making," the statement said.
It added that air traffic in January would fall to under 1.25 million passengers, and that the new Covid-19 restrictions could cut February and March traffic to as little as 500,000 passengers each month.
Ryanair shares opened down 1.3%.
The British government on Wednesday introduced legislation that would enable its current lockdown to remain in place until the end of March although Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he did not expect the full national lockdown to continue until then.
The Irish government on Wednesday said people should remain home except for essential journeys until at least the end of January, but Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said hospitality businesses needed to face the likelihood they would be closed until the end of March.
Ryanair criticised Ireland's travel curbs, which include the requirement of a Covid-19 test for people arriving from Britain but not from the neighbouring British region of Northern Ireland.