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Ryanair and EasyJet show the travel industry is still in deep trouble

CNN logo CNN 8/17/2020 By Hanna Ziady, CNN Business
a large passenger jet sitting on top of a runway: A passenger aircraft, operated by Ryanair Holdings Plc, stands near passenger aircraft, operated by Easyjet Plc, on the tarmac at London Southend Airport, part of the Stobart Group Ltd., in Southend-on-Sea, U.K., on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. EasyJet Plc plans to shutdown bases in Stansted, Southend and Newcastle in the U.K. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images © Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg/Getty Images A passenger aircraft, operated by Ryanair Holdings Plc, stands near passenger aircraft, operated by Easyjet Plc, on the tarmac at London Southend Airport, part of the Stobart Group Ltd., in Southend-on-Sea, U.K., on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. EasyJet Plc plans to shutdown bases in Stansted, Southend and Newcastle in the U.K. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

EasyJet is slashing its UK operations and Ryanair is cutting its upcoming flight schedule by a fifth, in the latest signs that travel companies are struggling to make a comeback from the coronavirus pandemic.

EasyJet said in a statement Monday that operations based at London Stansted, London Southend and Newcastle will be scrapped on August 31. Stansted and Newcastle will remain part of its route network, served by inbound planes from other bases, it added. All flights to and from Southend will be stopped.

The airline will continue to operate at eight UK bases, including London's Gatwick and Luton, serving nearly 500 routes.

The "very difficult decision" to no longer base crews and pilots at the three airports was caused by the pandemic and related travel restrictions, "compounded by quarantine measures in the UK which is impacting demand for travel," CEO Johan Lundgren said in a statement.

The base closures could result in the loss of up to 670 jobs. EasyJet said in May that it would need to cut 4,500 positions, with some reductions to be achieved through measures such as voluntary redundancy packages, part time contracts, base transfers and unpaid leave.

Travel in and around Europe has ground to a virtual standstill, despite it being the peak summer tourist season. TUI, the world's largest tour operator, said last week that it sold just 16% of its original summer 2020 program. Flights to and within the world's most visited region have also collapsed, according to the European Travel Commission.

"Forward bookings have notably weakened over the last 10 days, given continuing uncertainty over recent Covid case rates in some EU countries," Ryanair said in a statement on Monday.

As a result, Europe's largest airline by passengers said it will reduce flight numbers by 20% during September and October.

The cuts will be "heavily focused" on countries such as Spain, France, Sweden and Ireland, which are now subject to fresh travel restrictions, it added.

The UK government on Saturday added France to a list of countries from which arrivals to Britain must quarantine for 14 days after a spike in coronavirus cases in the country. France is the second-most popular destination for Britons after Spain, which is already on the quarantine list.

"Proper testing at airports, and effective tracing (as is being conducted in Germany and Italy) is the only realistic and proportionate method of supervising safe intra-EU air travel while effectively limiting the spread of the Covid-19 virus," a Ryanair spokesperson said.

— Eoin McSweeney and Vasco Cotovio contributed reporting.

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