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Ryanair CEO Michael O & # 39; Leary breaks authorities lockdown as visitors drops 80%

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LONDON – Ryanair said Monday it would operate a "significantly reduced flight schedule" over the next six months compared to its original expectations as governments across Europe tighten social restrictions.

The statement comes just two days after the UK government announced a second lockdown in England on November 5. Last week, the French and German governments also tabled plans for a second nationwide lockdown. Meanwhile, many governments across Europe have tightened restrictions in recent days as they grapple with a second wave of coronavirus infections.

"The WHO (World Health Organization) itself has confirmed that bans should be the last option. Bans are essentially a failure," Ryanair CEO Michael O & # 39; Leary told CNBC's "Squawk Box Europe" on Monday.

"If we had more aggressive testing and tracing capabilities, or like (UK Prime Minister) Boris Johnson had promised world-class testing and tracing that we clearly don't have in the UK, we could and would have avoided a second lockdown," said O. & # 39; Leary added.

The low-cost airline was hit hard by stay-at-home orders after the coronavirus pandemic. The company on Monday reported a 78% drop in sales between April and September compared to its performance a year ago. Ryanair also saw an 80% decrease in customer numbers over those six months.

"It is clear that air travel is at the forefront of this pandemic … and we believe the only way out is for governments, the UK, Irish and other European governments, to introduce pre-flight testing." O & # 39; Leary told CNBC.

Passenger jets operated by Ryanair Holdings stand on the tarmac at London Stansted Airport in Stansted, UK on May 1, 2020.

Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Due to recent restrictions in Europe, Ryanair expects fewer flights in the future.

"We assume that the capacity of intra-European air traffic will remain subdued in the next few years," said Ryanair in a statement.

O & # 39; Leary added that there will be "a core set of major trips that will happen this winter, but basically we're talking about a number that is less than a third of our normal number."

However, the company believes the crisis will "create opportunities" in the future, such as: B. an expansion of the fleet and lower airport costs.

Further highlights from the first half of the year:

A net loss of 197 million euros compared to a profit of 1.15 billion euros in the previous year. Operating costs fell by 67% to 1.35 billion euros compared to the previous year. The utilization factor reached 72% compared to 96% in the previous year.

Ryanair shares rose more than 3% during morning trading in Europe.

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Katherine Clark