As coronavirus cases surge again Europe, travel restrictions cause popular budget air carriers to make serious cutbacks.

By Rachel Chang
August 18, 2020
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Jet-setting around Europe may come at a greater cost now, as a pair of low-cost intra-continental airlines are feeling the impact of travel restrictions from the global coronavirus pandemic. Both Ryanair and easyJet announced major cuts on Monday.

As the continent’s largest air carrier, Dublin-based Ryanair announced that it will cut capacity by 20 percent in upcoming months. Most of the changes will involve scaling back on frequency, as opposed to eliminating routes.

These capacity cuts and frequency reductions for the months of September and October are necessary given the recent weakness in forward bookings due to COVID restrictions in a number of EU countries,” a Ryanair spokesperson said in a statement Monday, adding that affected passengers have been notified by email.

The cutbacks are mostly focused on France, Spain, and Sweden, where a surge in coronavirus cases has led to more travel restrictions, as well as the airline’s home base of Ireland, which has a required 14-day quarantine for visitors from many EU countries.

Countries across Europe are easing lockdown measures and many are seeking to promote a return of international travel and tourism. At the same time airlines are still facing a calamitous era, with some already receiving government bailouts and many announcing layoffs.
| Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Similarly, British-based easyJet has also felt the pressure of fewer bookings and confirmed the closure of three of its UK bases on Monday. Following a “collective consultation period,” the airline’s bases at London Stansted, London Southend, and Newcastle will shut down Aug. 31. London Southend flights will be completely eliminated starting Sept. 1, but some routes from London Stansted and Newcastle will remain as part of the route network.

“We have had to take the very difficult decision to close three UK bases as a result of the unprecedented impact of the pandemic and related travel restrictions, compounded by quarantine measures in the UK which is impacting demand for travel,” easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said in a release on Monday.

The airline is in the process of contacting passengers with flights from these airports with alternative options or refunds.

While the popularity of budget airlines had been increasing in recent years, the pandemic has placed a stress on the sector of the aviation industry. JetBlue’s CEO Robin Hayes also confirmed in a Bloomberg interview last week that while the airline still hopes to launch its trans-Atlantic flights, he admitted, “It’s going to be later in 2021 than we originally thought.”