Ryanair to pull NI flights for most of January and warns more cuts to come

Ryanair won't operate its services from Belfast International or City of Derry airports for most of January. Picture by Brian Lawless.
Ryan McAleer

RYANAIR is to suspend all flights in or out of Northern Ireland for most of January and warned it will “significantly cut” flights across its entire schedule from January 21 due to the tougher new Covid-19 restrictions.

The budget carrier has already reduced its operation at Belfast International and City of Derry airports to just four winter routes.

But a flight leaving Aldergrove for Krakow on Sunday will be the airline’s last from either airport until January 28.

Ryanair is due to resume flights from Derry to Liverpool on January 28, with the Derry to Edinburgh service returning in early February.

(Update: The Derry to Edinburgh service has now been pushed back until March 28 2021).

The Belfast International to Stansted route is pencilled in for a February 5 return, while flights to Krakow and Milan also due to resume in the first week of February.

But Ryanair yesterday indicated yesterday that the return of some of those flights could be in doubt in light of new restrictions.

The Irish carrier said it would "significantly cut its flight schedules" from January 21, operating "few, if any, flights" to and from the UK and Ireland.

It now expects to carry below 1.25 million passengers this month, and said traffic might drop to as low as 500,000 passengers in February and March.

"Ryanair will significantly cut its flight schedules from Thurs 21 Jan, which will result in few, if any, flights being operated to/from Ireland or the UK from the end of Jan until such time as these draconian travel restrictions are removed," the company said in a statement.

It added: "All customers affected by these further flight cancellations and further travel restrictions will receive emails advising them of their entitlements of free moves and/or refunds later today."

Ryanair has also criticised the Irish government for keeping open the border with the north, while heavily restricting flights to other countries.

A spokesperson said: "Ireland's Covid-19 travel restrictions are already the most stringent in Europe, and so these new flight restrictions are inexplicable and ineffective when Ireland continues to operate an open border between the Republic and the North of Ireland.”

Ryanair stands to lose many passengers from what it called "draconian" restrictions remaining in place.

On Thursday, it revealed to shareholders that it expects to carry between 26 million and 30 million passengers in the 12 months to March, which makes up the company's financial year.

It is a downgrade from its previous estimates of fewer than 35 million passengers.

However, the company said it does not expect a material impact on its net loss for the year, because many of the cancelled flights would have been loss-making anyway.

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