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Ryanair hit hard by pandemic as passenger numbers plunge

Europe's largest budget airline Ryanair said on Friday that its March passenger numbers dropped sharply due to flight bans and restrictions imposed by various European countries amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March, Ryanair Group handled a total of 5.7 million passengers, down 47.7 percent compared with the 10.9 million passengers handled by the group in the same month of last year, the airline said in a statement.

The load factor or flight occupancy of the group for March stood at 91 percent, five percentage points lower than the previous month's figure of 96 percent, according to the Ryanair statistics.

Ryanair operated over 33,000 scheduled flights in March including a number of rescue and medical flights on behalf of various governments of the European Union (EU) countries, said the airline.

"Ryanair expects to carry minimal if any traffic during the months of April and May," said the company's statement.

Ryanair has canceled most of its flights starting from midnight of March 24.

Headquartered in Ireland, Ryanair mainly operates flights within Europe and part of North Africa. The company boasts a fleet of more than 470 aircraft and a staff force of nearly 20,000 people.

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