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Coronavirus: Ryanair will not fly with empty middle seats

Credit: Belga

Irish low-cost airline Ryanair will not resume its flights when travel restrictions are lifted if authorities force them to leave the middle seats empty, the company’s CEO said.

If air traffic in Europe were to start up again in July, Ryanair would immediately be able to resume 40% of its flights, with planes about 50% to 60% full, according to Michael O’Leary, the company’s CEO.

In August, the company would increase the number of flights to 60%, and 80% in September, before falling back to 60% during the winter season, when it is generally less busy.

However, that will not happen if “some entirely ineffective social distancing measures like having middle seats empty” were implemented “because if middle seats are empty, we’re not returning to flying at all,” O’Leary told the Financial Times, adding that the company had already contacted the Irish government to say that if it introduced such a rule “either the government pays for the middle seat or we won’t fly.”

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“We can’t make money on 66% load factors. Even if you do that, the middle seat doesn’t deliver any social distancing, so it’s kind of an idiotic idea that doesn’t achieve anything anyway,” O’Leary said.

However, conditions for a resumption of air travel are likely to include a requirement to leave the middle seat vacant on flights, Alexandre de Juniac, the director-general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) told the Reuters press agency.

On Wednesday, the European Commission also announced that it is considering social distancing on flights and in airports as part of the rules for the safe reopening of air travel when coronavirus pandemic lockdowns end.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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