Passengers stranded as flights between UK and Italy are cancelled

Hundreds of flights between the UK and Italy have been cancelled due to the coronavirus, leaving some passengers stranded.

British Airways suspended all flights to and from Italy on Tuesday, while Ryanair said no flights will serve the country from Saturday.

EasyJet has cancelled dozens of its Italian flights.

British Airways refused refund requests to passengers booked on flights to Italian airports outside the north of the country until the Foreign and Commonwealth Office updated its travel advice on Monday night.

That means some passengers may have reluctantly travelled to Italy to avoid losing money and now face a struggle to get home.

Jess Nicholls, 43, an enterprise change consultant, told the PA news agency she felt “dumped” by the airline after her flight from Rome to London was cancelled.

She said she was seeking an “acknowledgement that they just stranded loads of passengers when they said they would get us home”.

Ms Nicholls went on: “Their website was down, their call centres are overloaded and we got an email after midnight saying our flight was cancelled. It’s putting more passengers in danger.”

She said she “had to fight” to secure a place on a Vueling flight.

Ryanair said passengers who need to fly home can switch to one of its flights which are operating up to and including Friday.

Coronavirus graphic
(PA Graphics)

An airline spokesman said: “The situation is changing on a daily basis, and all passengers on flights affected by travel bans or cancellations are receiving emails and are being offered flight transfers, full refunds or travel credits.

“Ryanair apologises sincerely to all customers for these schedule disruptions, which are caused by national government restrictions and the latest decision of the Italian government to lock down the entire country to combat the Covid-19 virus.”

Low cost carrier Norwegian has cancelled around 3,000 flights between mid-March and mid-June across all its routes, due to a drop in demand because of the coronavirus.

This represents approximately 15% of its capacity for this period.

The company has also put several other measures in place, including temporary layoffs of a “significant share of its workforce”.

Terminal 5 departures
The passenger information board in Terminal 5 at Heathrow (Steve Parsons/PA)

Chief executive Jacob Schram said: “We encourage the authorities to immediately implement measures to imminently reduce the financial burden on the airlines in order to protect crucial infrastructure and jobs.”

Virgin Atlantic has admitted flying planes that are “almost empty” in order to keep take-off and landing slots despite demand plummeting due to the coronavirus.

Chief executive Shai Weiss said the airline is being “forced” to continue with flights because rules about slot allocation have not been relaxed.

Slots at capacity-constrained airports such as Heathrow can be worth millions of pounds.

The European Union operates a so-called “use it or lose it” rule which means airlines must use 80% of their slots or risk them being taken away in the following year.

The regulation has been removed for routes serving mainland China and Hong Kong due to the outbreak of Covid-19, but remains for other destinations.

Airlines claim it is inappropriate to apply the rule amid a huge reduction in passenger numbers.

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