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Coronavirus crisis forces Ryanair to ground almost all flights

Stansted Airport's biggest airline, Ryanair, says it expects most flights will be grounded until June.

The Irish low-cost carrier does not anticipate operating scheduled services in April and May, dependent on Government advice.

Instead, the company has offered its aircraft for use by all EU governments, both for rescue flights to return stranded travellers to their home countries and to move medicines, personal protective equipment for medical staff and, if necessary, emergency food supplies.

Ryanair Boeing 737-800. (32312352)
Ryanair Boeing 737-800. (32312352)

The airline has urged passengers affected by the cancellations not to call its customer service centre, where staffing has been cut by 50% to ensure social distancing, but to wait for an email outlining their options.

Chief executive Micheal O'Leary said that while the immediate future was uncertain, it was important to remember that, like all pandemics, this crisis would pass.

He had previously anticipated at least an 80% cut in services, and the airline implemented a freeze on recruitment and discretionary spending and a series of voluntary leave options, temporary suspension of employment contracts and significant reductions in working hours and payments for its crews.

Stansted Airport terminal (32312333)
Stansted Airport terminal (32312333)

Manchester Airports Group, which operates Stansted, has also introduced temporary job and pay cuts, reduced working hours and enforced annual leave in the face of what it calls "the greatest threat the UK's travel sector has ever faced".

On Tuesday (March 24) a spokesman said: "London Stansted is open but with a limited passenger flight schedule in operation. Essential freight services continue to operate to and from the airport.

"Passengers still expecting to travel are strongly advised to check the status of their flight with the airline, but only travel if strictly necessary in line with Government guidance.

"The safety and security of passengers and staff will always be our number one priority and we continue to follow the latest instructions from the Government and Public Health England."

In response to the crisis which has battered Stansted's workforce, Uttlesford District Council is urging those who have lost their jobs to get in touch.

Cllr Alan Dean, a Stansted member and leader of the authority's Liberal Democrat group, said: "Uttlesford District Council cannot guarantee taking people on, but anybody interested in more manual work such as loaders, refuse vehicle drivers and cleaners should send their details to human resources."

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