March 9, 2020 / 3:18 PM / a month ago

Ryanair lowers 2020 traffic target as Italy imposes lockdown

FILE PHOTO: Ryanair Boeing 737-8AS plane EI-EKG approaches Riga International Airport in Riga, Latvia January 17, 2020. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

(Reuters) - Ryanair on Tuesday said it will cancel almost all of its flights to and from Italy for the next month, forcing it to cut its full year passenger forecast to end-March by 3 million.

Europe’s biggest low-cost airline said it would suspend all Italian domestic flights from midnight on Wednesday, and all international flights from the country from midnight on Friday, after the government extended a clampdown across the entire country in a bid to slow Europe’s worst outbreak of the coronavirus.

Italy is Ryanair’s most important market, with its Italian domestic routes making up around 8% of its network and international routes around 19%.

As a result, the airline lowered its passenger target for the 2020 financial year, which closes in around 2 weeks at the end of March, by 3 million from 154 million to 151 million. It said it does not expect the reductions to have a material impact on its full-year profit, but it was too early to say whether there would be an impact during its 2021 financial year.

“It is far too early to assess the impact of Covid-19 on (2021) traffic and earnings,” it said in a statement. “The Ryanair Group will continue to focus on delivering cost savings and improved operational efficiency.”

Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O’Leary told Reuters last week that he expected April and May bookings to fall 10% due to the virus, dealing a “meaningful impact” to quarterly earnings, but predicted that the situation would stabilise by early summer.

Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila, Kirsten Donovan

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