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RYANAIR boss Michael O’Leary has warned the low-budget carrier won’t fly if they are required to keep the middle seat empty.

The airline chief said he expected 80 per cent of the carrier’s schedule to resume by September if flights in Europe started again in early July – but only if they were allowed to use all of the seats on their planes.

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 Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has warned the low-budget carrier won’t fly if they are required to keep the middle seat empty.

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Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has warned the low-budget carrier won’t fly if they are required to keep the middle seat empty.Credit: John Kirkby – The Sun Glasgow

The outspoken CEO told the Financial Times that flights wouldn’t happen if there were “some entirely ineffective social distancing measures like having middle seats empty, because if middle seats are empty we’re not returning to flying at all.

“We can’t make money on 66 per cent load factors.

“Even if you do that, the middle seat doesn’t deliver any social distancing, so it’s kind of an idiotic idea that doesn’t achieve anything anyway.”

Instead of eliminating the middle seat, the Irish low-cost carrier backs the introduction of mandatory temperature checks and face masks for passengers and crew when flights resume.

The Ryanair boss said had made clear to the Irish government that if they wanted to implement such a restriction, they could foot the bill or Ryanair would not fly.

The company made the headlines earlier this week as passengers were being refused refunds for their cancelled flights until the coronavirus crisis is over and being offered vouchers instead.

 The airline chief said he expected 80 per cent of the carrier’s schedule to resume by September if flights in Europe started again in early July

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The airline chief said he expected 80 per cent of the carrier’s schedule to resume by September if flights in Europe started again in early JulyCredit: EPA

Customers are being told that anyone requesting a cash refund will be put in a queue until the pandemic has stopped.

Furious passengers are being sent e-mails from the the low-cost airline explaining that they would not be processing refunds until “the Covid-19 crisis has abated”.

The airline explained: “As our payment agents are required to stay at home in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, payment security restrictions prevent us from processing cash refunds.”

There is some good news for travellers tough – Mr O’Leary has claimed that flights could be cheaper after lockdown due to an “airline price war”.

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Brushing off forecasts of a sluggish recovery, O’Leary predicted a swift traffic rebound, with the pain coming instead from “massive price-dumping” that traditional airlines now seeking bailouts would struggle to keep up with.

He explained: “When this thing is over there is going to be such massive discounting going on that there will be a large spike upward in travel and tourism for a period of time.”

“How long it will take pricing to recover … we think that’s out into 2021, but who knows?”

When asked if 2021 would see weak profits, he said: “No. I think 2021 has every prospect of being a bumper year in terms of earnings.”

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He added: “Prices will be lower, but oil prices will be lower. There will be much more incentives at airports for growth”.

Ryanair has grounded nearly all of its planes – but the airline is still operating on a small handful of routes until the end of the month.

The flights are mainly operating between the UK and Ireland, but it is also flying between London and Berlin, Lisbon, Budapest and Eindhoven.

Airports across the UK are at risk of closing…

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