Tom Swarbrick 10pm - 1am
Coronavirus: British Airways and Ryanair cancel flights due to 'significant drop in bookings'
2 March 2020, 18:25 | Updated: 2 March 2020, 19:34
British Airways and Ryanair have been forced to cancel flights following a "significant" drop in demand amid coronavirus fears.
Dublin-based Ryanair became the latest airline company to cancel a number of its flights after experiencing a "significant drop in bookings" following the Covid-19 outbreak.
Some routes - especially those to and from Italy - will be temporarily dropped by up to 25 per cent after a "step-up in passenger no-shows on flights."
The majority of flights affected will be short-haul journeys set to take place between 17 March and 8 April.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the company said: "Ryanair today notified passengers that it was reducing its short-haul flight programme (mainly to and from Italy) by up to 25 per cent for a three-week period from Tuesday 17 March to Wednesday 8 Apr, in response to the Covid-19 virus.
"Over the past week, Ryanair has seen a significant drop in bookings over that late March/early April period, in response to the Covid-19 virus.
"There has also been a significant step up in passenger no-shows on flights, particularly from and within Italy."
The Irish-based firm are adopting a series of measures in response to the outbreak of the infection, such as "rolling schedule cuts", allocating leave or paid leave to pilots and cabin crew, working with suppliers to cut costs and freezing recruitment, promotion and pay across its network.
British Airways and Easyjet have also reduced their schedules in light of the upsurge of cases across Europe, with hundreds of flights being cancelled.
Journeys between Heathrow and New York's JFK airport, Italy, France, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and Switzerland have all been affected by the decision of British Airways.
It has also cancelled flights between Gatwick and Italy, France and Albania, as well as London City flights to and from Germany and Italy.
A British Airways spokesman said: "To match reduced demand due to the continuing coronavirus issue, we are merging a number of flights between 16 March and 28 March.
"We will be contacting customers on cancelled flights so we can discuss their travel options, including re-booking onto other carriers where possible, full refunds or booking with BA for a later date of travel.
"Customers can also find the latest information and options on BA.com."
Meanwhile, the director-general of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the "window of opportunity" to contain coronavirus was narrowing.
Speaking on Monday he added: "We had a window of opportunity and what we said then was, of course, we can have concerns and worries - it's understandable - but let's really calm down and do the right thing and use the window of opportunity to contain the outbreak.
"So it is still the same message but in some places we are not seeing the level of response that we expected and that's why we have been again saying to the world, reminding the world, that the window of opportunity is narrowing and that we have to still do our best to catch up."
In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said measures to tackle the disease, such as closing schools and banning mass gatherings, would only be taken upon scientific advice.
Speaking after a Cobra meeting on Monday, he said: "The most important thing for people to understand is that (measures) will be guided by scientific advice.
"All four nations of the UK and the chief medical officers are involved in this and they will be helping us to take key decisions on when and how to take protective steps."
Four more coronavirus cases were confirmed in the UK on Monday, bringing the total number of people infected to 39.