Budget carrier Ryanair is predicting net profits of €950 million-1 billion for 2019-20 as the tail-end of its fiscal year started suffering the effects of the coronavirus crisis.

It states that it is conducting fewer than 20 flights daily, and expects its fleet to stay “largely grounded” for at least the two-month period of April-May.

Ryanair says that, as a result, it expects an exceptional charge of €300 million in 2019-20 relating to “ineffectiveness” of 2020-21 fuel hedges.

Ryanair Group passenger numbers in March – the month in which airlines began responding with mass fleet groundings – almost halved to 5.7 million.

This suppressed the passenger total to 149 million for the year, a rise of 4%, compared with the 154 million the airline had forecast.

But the budget airline is still unable to give guidance on its 2020-21 full-year performance, owing to the uncertainty of the coronavirus situation.

It says it will continue to concentrate on saving costs and protecting jobs, while supporting government demand for medical and repatriation flights.

The airline has taken similar measures to those of other carriers, such as capital expenditure deferral and a hiring freeze, while all pay – including that of senior management – is being halved for April-May.

“We are engaging with our people and our unions across all European Union countries to agree payroll support mechanisms as they are put in place by EU governments,” it adds.

Ryanair insists it has “one of the strongest balance sheets in the industry”, with year-end cash equivalents of €3.8 billion and 327 unencumbered aircraft – over three-quarters of the fleet.