Several airlines have cancelled flights to Italy due to the impact of the coronavirus epidemic on the country. The BBC reports that Ryanair has stopped all its Italy flights from 13 March to 8 April, with BA doing likewise until 4 April. EasyJet has its Italy flights cancelled until 3 April.

Ryanair’s decision to delay the implementation of its ban until the 13 March is in order to allow people to reschedule their return flights.

The cancellation of flights to Italy comes shortly after the Italian PM Guiseppe Conte placed the whole country on a lockdown, banning all public gatherings and telling people to remain in their homes. This measure followed the failure in imposing a curfew in the north of the country, with people reported as having driven south from the northern isolated zone shortly before the lockdown was imposed.

Other sources report of Italians being turned back at the border with Austria having attempted to flee the country.

Coronavirus in Italy

In Italy, the coronavirus epidemic started in an area in the north of the country based around 10 villages in Lombardy and one in Veneto. Authorities cancelled the last two days of the Venice Carnival as well as all sporting events in an attempt to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.

According to the latest information from John Hopkins CSSE, more than 10,000 people in Italy have contracted the virus – the second highest figure after China, where the coronavirus started in Wuhan. Some 631 people have died.

Airline industry in freefall

The cancellation of flights to Italy is another blow to the airline industry which has recently suffered the Flybe collapse, in part due to the impact on sales of the coronavirus. Similarly, Norwegian Air has announced it will be cutting 15% of its flights, as well as laying off part of its workforce, due to the downturn in demand.

Qantas has also announced it will cut its international flights by 25%, and Woo Kee-hong, president of Korean Korean Air sent an email to company employees warning of its survival should the crisis continue for much longer. South Korea has had the third highest number of people testing positive for the coronavirus COVID-19 after China and Italy.

Curtailment of ghost flights

On a slightly more positive note Ursula Von der Leyen, European Commission President, announced that airlines will not need to fly ghost flights to maintain their slots.

“It will relieve the pressure on the aviation industry and in particular, on smaller airline companies. But it will also decrease emissions by avoiding so-called ghost flights,” she said, according to the BBC.

As of 11 March, 119,00 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, with more than 4,000 deaths, again according to John Hopkins CSSE.

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