RYANAIR has announced it will cut its winter flights by a third due to low demand and travel restrictions across Europe - leaving speculation as to whether it will pull its base at Southend.

Bosses at the budget airline say the cuts have been forced upon them by the Government’s mismanagement of EU air travel.

Bases at Cork, Shannon, both in Ireland, and Toulouse in France, will close, leaving speculation as to whether the base at Southend Airport will remain after easyJet pulled out from Southend in July.

When the Echo approached Ryanair on whether flights from Southend Airport would be cut, the airline stated it would be able to provide a clear overview of the final winter 2020 schedules next week.

It will only maintain up to 65 per cent of its route network between November and March. Routes that do survive will be served with a lower frequency of flights than normal.

Southend councillor, Mark Flewitt, for St. Laurence Ward, said it would be “dire” if Ryanair cut flights from Southend Airport, although bosses have not yet confirmed this.

He said: “Those who have been anti-airport because they don’t like the airport being so close to them - we all have to think long and hard, if we don’t have that airport what do we have?

“The pressure of course comes with the cargo flights to be sustained because that’s the income that they have, it’s kind of the only alternative. I don’t want any more cargo flights more than most people do, I would rather have passenger flights which is what Southend Airport was commissioned for.”

Ryanair said its winter capacity will be just 40 per cent of what it was 12 months earlier, compared with the 60 per cent it previously planned.

It said it expects to fill 70 per cent of seats and estimates it will fly 38 million passengers during the 12 months to the end of March 2021, compared with 149 million the previous year.

Campaigner, John Fuller, member of South East Essex Friends of the Earth said it would be for the best to see the airport close.

Ryanair’s Group CEO, Michael O’Leary, said: “While we deeply regret these winter schedule cuts they have been forced upon us by Government mismanagement of EU air travel. Our focus continues to be on maintaining as large a schedule as we can sensibly operate to keep our aircraft, our pilots and our cabin crew current and employed while minimising job losses.”