Budget airline easyJet announced this morning that it would be cancelling some of its flights into and out of Europe, particularly Italy, as coronavirus sweeps the continent. As demand for travel slips, the airline has revealed ways it hopes to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.
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In a statement issued to the markets this morning, easyJet said: “Following the increased incidence of COVID-19 cases in Northern Italy, we have seen a significant softening of demand and load factors into and out of our Northern Italian bases.
“Further, we are also seeing some slower demand across our other European markets.
“As a result, we will be making decisions to cancel some flights, particularly those into and out of Italy while continuing to monitor the situation and adapting our flying programme to support demand.
“While it is too early to determine what the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak will be on current year outlook and guidance for both the Airline and Holidays business, we continue to monitor the situation carefully and will update the market in due course.
“easyJet is working closely with authorities and are following the guidelines provided by the World Health Organisation and EASA to ensure the health and wellbeing of our people and customers.”
The airline is also looking for other ways to lessen the financial blow caused by a lack of demand from travellers.
An easyJet spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “We can confirm that we have taken the decision to cancel a number of flights mainly to and from Italy following a slowing in demand as a result of concerns over Covid-19.
“The cancellations are for some flights between 13 March and 31 March 2020, most of which have multiple daily frequencies.
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“Customers are being contacted and moved onto flights operating on the same day or alternatively have been offered a full refund.
“Standard terms and conditions apply on all flights which are unaffected as they will be operating as normal.”
Airline executives have also decided to put in place budget cuts in administrative areas, recruitment, promotion and pay-freezes across its network and offering unpaid leave to staff.
Over the course of last weekend, cases of the virus began to spread rapidly throughout Italy with the government forcing certain municipalities in the northern part of the country into quarantine.
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Currently, there are 655 confirmed cases in Italy, and 17 sufferers have lost their lives.
Elsewhere in Europe there have been confirmed cases in Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Norway, Croatia, Greece, Finland, Belarus, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Romania.
The UK currently has 16 confirmed cases, 8 of which have recovered.
Though the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has not told travellers to avoid their plans altogether, it has issued warnings for those heading to infected areas.
For those heading to Italy the FCO warns: “The FCO advise against all but essential travel to 10 small towns in Lombardy (Codogno, Castiglione d’Adda, Casalpusterlengo, Fombio, Maleo, Somaglia, Bertonico, Terranova dei Passerini, Castelgerundo and San Fiorano) and one in Veneto (Vo’ Euganeo), which have been isolated by the Italian authorities due to an ongoing outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19).”
Meanwhile, experts have dubbed airports a “biohazard cauldron” and one of the most dangerous places for contracting the illness.
Travel expert Simon Calder said: “It’s a microbiological party, everybody from around the world converges with their own personal germs and they all get mixed up, particularly at the security area.”
He advises those passing through airports to keep a distance from others, and make sure to wash their hands frequently.
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