Ryanair is reducing its short-haul flight program in Italy by up to a quarter for a three period from March 17th in response to the Covid-19 virus.
Over the past week, the low-cost carrier said it had seen significant drop in bookings over the late March/early April period, in response to the spread of the virus.
There has also been a significant step up in passenger no-shows on flights, particularly from and within Italy.
Ryanair said it would continue to monitor bookings carefully, and will continue to flex its schedules in response to this developing situation.
Ryanair Group chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said: “Our focus at this time is on minimising any risk to our people and our passengers.
“While we are heavily booked over the next two weeks, there has been a notable drop in forward bookings towards the end of March, into early April.
“It makes sense to selectively prune our schedule to and from those airports where travel has been most affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.”
The low-cost carrier said the decision was unlikely to have a material impact on its financial results for the year, but that it was too early to speculate on the role the virus might play looking ahead to 2020.
“This is a time for calm,” added O’Leary.
“We will make sensible cuts to our schedules over the comings weeks to reflect weaker bookings, and changing travel patterns.”
Which? Travel said the decision was understandable.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, added: “While the decision to cancel flights in the face of growing concerns around the spread of coronavirus may be understandable, passengers due to travel will want to know what this means for their travel plans, especially in the run up to the Easter holidays.
“Ryanair must ensure they are keeping passengers informed and quickly rerouting them to their destinations on the next available flight, with other carriers if necessary.
“Given the circumstances, airlines should also consider offering flexibility to customers who don’t want to travel, such as allowing refunds and waiving flight change fees for both existing and future bookings.”