- Budget carrier Ryanair said the full grounding of its fleet could not be ruled out over the coming months as governments ban travel to combat the coronavirus.

Ryanair noted that over the past seven days countries including Italy, Malta, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Greece, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Poland, Norway and Cyprus had imposed flight bans of varying degree.

'Ryanair expects the result of these restrictions will be the grounding of the majority of its aircraft fleet across Europe over the next seven to 10 days,' it said.

The company said it expected to reduce flight capacity by up to 80% in April and May 'and a full grounding of the fleet cannot be ruled out'.

Ryanair said it was taking immediate action to reduce operating expenses and improve cash flows.

Measures would include grounding surplus aircraft, deferring all capex and share buybacks, freezing recruitment and discretionary spending, and implementing a series of voluntary leave options, temporarily suspending employment contracts, and significant reductions to working hours and payments.

Ryanair said it had strong liquidity, with cash and cash equivalents of over €4bn as at 12 March.

'At the Ryanair Group Airlines, we are doing everything we can to meet the challenge posed by the Covid-19 outbreak, which has over the last week caused extraordinary and unprecedented travel restrictions to be imposed by National Governments, in many cases with minimal or zero notice,' chief executive Michael O'Leary said.

'We are communicating with all affected passengers by email and SMS, and we are organising rescue flights to repatriate customers, even in those countries where travel bans have been imposed.'

'Our priority remains the health and welfare of our people and our passengers, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that they can be reunited with their friends and families during these difficult times.'

'Ryanair is taking all actions necessary to cut operating expenses, and improve cash flows at each of our airlines.'

'Ryanair is a resilient airline group, with a very strong balance sheet, and substantial cash liquidity, and we can, and will, with appropriate and timely action, survive through a prolonged period of reduced or even zero flight schedules, so that we are adequately prepared for the return to normality, which will come about sooner rather than later as EU Governments take unprecedented action to restrict the spread of Covid-19.'

At 1:01pm: [LON:RYA] Ryanair Holdings PLC share price was -1.95p at 8.55p

Story provided by