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Coronavirus: Ryanair warns autumn second wave is its 'biggest fear'

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·2-min read
FILE- In this Tuesday July 21, 2009 file photo, Ryanair planes are seen at Stansted Airport in England. Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary says the 18 percent drop in sterling’s value since Britain voted in June to leave the European Union has hit the euro value of 26 percent of the airline’s sales. As a result, he said Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016, Ryanair’s fiscal 2017 forecast was being cut by 5 percent to a new range of 1.3 billion euros to 1.35 billion euros ($1.43 billion to $1.49 billion), still 7 percent better than in 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File).
Ryanair warned on a second wave of the coronavirus and called the UK government's 14-day quarantine rule for travellers from Spain 'regrettable.' Photo: Matt Dunham/AP

Ryanair (RYA.L) has warned a second wave of the coronavirus is its “biggest fear” after the hardest few months in the company’s history.

The Irish budget airline revealed losses of €185m (£168.7m) in the three months to the end of June. It had made €243m in the same period last year, according to its first-quarter results published on Monday.

The company’s chief financial officer Neil Sorahan also hit out at the UK government’s “regrettable” decision to warn against all but essential travel to mainland Spain. He told Reuters the imposition of a two-week quarantine on new arrivals from Spain was “very disappointing.”

But he said the airline had no plans to cut its capacity “in the medium term” despite the measures, which are expected to heavily curb UK travel to Spain. Ryanair’s shares were down more than 8% in early trading on Monday in London, with other airlines also taking a hit.

The company’s losses in its most recent quarter were less than the €232m expected by the airline’s poll of analysts.

READ MORE: Tui cancels holidays to Spain after UK government quarantine U-turn

Ryanair had been initially forced to ground 99% of its fleet as the pandemic has hammered air travel. It carried just 500,000 passengers in the first quarter, versus 41.9 million a year earlier.

But it said around 40% of flights resumed from early July as lockdown restrictions have eased.

Ryanair declined to give any guidance about its expected full-year profits, “given the current uncertainty.”

Ryanair stock chart
Ryanair stock chart. Source: Yahoo Finance

“It is impossible to predict how long the COVID-19 pandemic will persist, and a second wave of COVID-19 cases across Europe in late autumn (when the annual flu season commences) is our biggest fear right now,” it said.

The company said it hoped effective track and tracing systems and public compliance with hand hygiene and face mask rules would “avoid the need for further lockdowns or restrictions” on travel within the EU.

Sorahan added: "I have no doubt that we will see other localised outbreaks and we need to be flexible enough to deal with them as they arise over the next number of weeks and months.”

Health minister Helen Whately defended the quarantine on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“The rate was going up very rapidly in Spain and we had to take very rapid, decisive action,” she said.
“If we hadn’t taken that decisive action, I imagine you would be asking me ‘Why are there delays, why haven’t we taken robust action?’”

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