Jack Quann
Jack Quann

07.59 15 Oct 2020


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The Irish airline Ryanair has confirmed it is to close its bases in Cork and Shannon for the winter months of November to March.

It will also shut its base in Toulouse, France in reponse to 'increased flight restrictions'.

It says these restrictions from EU governments have seen air travel to and from much of Central Europe, Ireland, the UK, Austria, Belgium and Portugal heavily curtailed.

This has seen bookings weaken slightly in October, but also "materially" in November and December.

It has also warned there will be more redundancies at a number of cabin crew bases which have not secured an agreement on working time and pay cuts.

In a statement, Ryanair said: "In light of these weaker bookings, and Ryanair's plan to operate with a 70% load factors, Ryanair has today further reduced its winter schedule (Nov - Mar) taking capacity down from 60% to 40% of prior year.

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

In addition to the closure of bases in Cork, Shannon and Toulouse the carrier is also making base aircraft cuts in Belgium, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Austria.

It now expects full year traffic to fall to around 38 million passengers.

'Better than mass job losses'

Ryanair's Group CEO Michael O'Leary said: "While we deeply regret these winter schedule cuts they have been forced upon us by Government mismanagement of EU air travel.

"Our focus continues to be on maintaining as large a schedule as we can sensibly operate to keep our aircraft, our pilots and our cabin crew current and employed while minimising job losses.

"It is inevitable, given the scale of these cutbacks, that we will be implementing more unpaid leave, and job sharing this winter in those bases where we have agreed reduced working time and pay, but this is a better short-term outcome than mass job losses.

"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.

"We continue to actively manage our cost base to be prepared for the inevitable rebound and recovery of short haul air travel in Europe once an effective COVID-19 vaccine is developed."

The carrier had floated the idea of the base closures last month, with a plan to put all pilot and cabin crew operating from Cork and Shannon on unpaid leave.

Ryanair CEO Eddie Wilson has also criticised Transport Minister Eamon Ryan, saying he has only had one meeting with him.

He told Pat Kenny the Government's green list, which currently has no countries on it, singles Ireland out.

"Ireland has a discredited green list which means that no countries are open.

"But this morning in Germany, Italy and France, Sweden, Norway you can fly intra-European at the moment".

"So they're looking at the traffic light system as to how this will make a sort of homogenous approach to how people will go into each of those countries."

"The difference between Europe and Ireland is we didn't do anything all summer, we just discouraged people from travelling, we had a disproportionate affect on travel.

"And instead of actually putting something in place, this minister didn't do anything."

Cork Airport 'devastated'

Niall MacCarthy, the managing director at Cork Airport, said: "The team here at Cork Airport is really devastated to hear of Ryanair’s decision to close its base at Cork with the loss of so many direct and indirect jobs and the cessation of thirteen 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.

"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."

However despite the base closure, Ryanair will still retain three routes serving Cork over the winter - Stansted, Katowice and Gdansk.

But these routes will be operated by aircraft and staff based outside of Ireland.

Ryanair has had a base at Cork Airport since 2005, and this winter will be the first time that the airline has not had any aircraft based in Cork.

 Eight flights serving Shannon

Mary Considine, CEO of Shannon Group, said: "This is very disappointing news not only for Shannon based Ryanair employees and all our airport team, but for the whole region who rely on the services that Ryanair provide.

"We have done everything in our power to retain the base."

"In July, Ryanair resumed services to 16 destinations from Shannon, and as a result of today's announcement this will see their operation at Shannon reduced to eight flights serving Stansted, Manchester and Wroclaw for the winter period."

She added: "The aviation industry is on its knees with further flight restrictions being imposed in EU countries as the virus rates increase.

"What we need now is a clear pathway to recovery for aviation.

"We had hoped that it would start with a harmonised EU traffic light system.

"While this was endorsed by Ireland, the measures proposed fall short of what the industry requires.

"This urgently needs to be addressed and supported by a testing regime at airports to restore confidence and get aviation moving safely again."

Main image: Passengers board a Ryanair Boeing 737-800 aircraft at Barcelona Airport in Spain | Image: SOPA Images/SIPA USA/PA Images

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Air Travel Closures Cork Covid-19 EU Restrictions Michael O'Leary Ryanair Shannon

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