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Airline stocks rise following news of a rapid COVID-19 test that can be taken at the airport within an hour of departure.
(Bloomberg) -- Ryanair Holdings Plc slashed its schedule and cut back its presence in several countries, blaming tighter travel restrictions that have hammered demand in Europe.The shares fell after the Irish discount carrier said it will operate at about 40% of its 2019 winter capacity, down from a previous plan to run at 60%. Ryanair will reduce the number of aircraft kept in Belgium, Germany, Spain, Portugal and in Vienna for the season, after bookings weakened materially in November and December, it said in a statement on Thursday.A resurgence in Covid-19 infections that torpedoed a comeback for summer air traffic is now bearing down on the slower part of the year. Airlines have been clamoring for an easing of travel restrictions to spur demand, but with cases rising further there’s little sign authorities will rescind current health measures.Rivals EasyJet Plc and Wizz Air Holdings Plc are also paring back capacity as they try and preserve cash and make it to next summer. U.K.-based EasyJet, Europe’s second-biggest discount carrier, plans to fly only 25% of capacity for the fourth quarter. Wizz, the third largest and with much of its network in Eastern Europe, has said it will fly 50% of its usual offering this month, and will likely maintain that level through the winter.‘Greater Good’Ryanair’s decision has “been forced upon us by government mismanagement of EU air travel,” Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary said in the statement. But Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney reiterated his government has no plans to remove travel curbs given the current state of the pandemic.“I do recognize these are incredibly difficult times for airlines that are trying to keep people employed and losing huge amounts of money, but the government has got to make decisions for the greater good,” he said in a radio interview. Ireland has signed up to the EU’s common-travel restriction system and will announce how it would be implemented in coming days, Coveney said.Ryanair shares fell as much as 4.6% and traded 3.3% lower as of 10:43 a.m. in Dublin. Other airline stocks also declined, including EasyJet, Wizz, Deutsche Lufthansa AG and IAG SA.Route NetworkRyanair said it will fly to about 65% of its route network, and seek to operate flights that are about 70% full to protect profitability. Winter closures will also be carried out at bases in Cork and Shannon, Ireland, and Toulouse, France, Ryanair said.In August, Ryanair slashed its schedules for September and October after rising cases in Europe stifled a rebound in demand. EasyJet has said it will temporarily close Italian bases in Venice and Naples. Struggling discounter Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA is considering eliminating its short-haul base at London Gatwick airport, Bloomberg News reported this month.Ryanair will ask staff to go on unpaid leave or job share, it said in the statement.(Updates with CEO comment in fifth paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.