Italian airline Alitalia is operating a number of special flights tomorrow between Dublin and Rome to repatriate those stuck abroad due to coronavirus travel restrictions, while the Dublin Airport Authority has confirmed that passenger numbers continue to fall.

The flights between the two capitals will cater to both Irish people stranded in Italy and Italians grounded in Ireland.

In a statement to RTÉ News, the airline said it accepted a request from the Department of Foreign Affairs through the Italian Embassy in Dublin.

Alitalia said it would operate two flights from Dublin to Rome to repatriate more than 500 Italians who are stranded here.

One of the two flights that will leave Rome will also bring Irish people home from Italy - Flight AZ 241, which will depart from Rome Fiumicino at 4.55pm tomorrow, 26 March.

A high-capacity aircraft usually used for long-haul routes - an Airbus A330 - will be used to accommodate the passengers.

Irish people in Italy are advised to visit the airline's website to book tickets.

Alitalia said there is a price cap tariff on tickets for the special flights.

DAA external communications manager Siobhan Moore said passenger numbers are expected to "dwindle" further in the day ahead. 

However, she said the airport will remain open for repatriation flights and cargo.

While passenger numbers are down in excess of 76%, the number of flights are down by only 53%, as airlines try to maintain routes.

Many planes arriving at the airport today were almost empty, with an estimated nine people aboard a flight from Lisbon this morning.

Ryanair has said it will operate daily or weekly flights from Dublin to London Stansted and Gatwick, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Amsterdam, Brussels, Berlin, Cologne and Lisbon from Friday, 27 March to Thursday, 2 April.

It will also operate flights from Cork to London Stansted.

The airline will also service London routes to some airports in Europe, including Lisbon and Berlin. 

In a statement, Ryanair said that as most EU countries have imposed flight bans or other restrictions, over 90% of its aircraft will be grounded for the coming weeks. 

Aer Lingus will continue to operate a reduced schedule to facilitate repatriation across Europe and North America.

Intending passengers who wish to change their travel plans are being offered a voucher, plus 10% of cost.

Flights to and from Italy and Spain as well as most regional airports have been cancelled.

Customers impacted are being contacted directly.

Elsewhere, a 25-year-old man from Birr in Co Offaly has said he and his girlfriend, Andrea, are effectively stranded in Melbourne, Australia, where they have been living since last October.

Colm Cahill told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that they have spent €4,800 between them on flights trying to get home, all of which have been cancelled.

"And there's no sign of a refund from either," he said. 

"That was two different flights, both cancelled. The second one was cancelled within six hours. The first one we had two or three days, everything was fine, and then boom."

Mr Cahill said he has been in contact via Facebook with dozens of other Irish citizens in Australia in a similar situation.

He said it's "impossible" to get through to the airlines on the phone and people are losing thousands of euro on cancelled flights.

The Irish Embassy has been good, he adde, but it's been "bombarded" with calls.

"I don't think anyone realised there was so many of us out here in the same situation," he said.

"There are people that feel trapped and like they're going to be left behind.

"It's scary when you add it all up."

A South African couple on holiday in Ireland fear being stranded here as their government is due to introduce a travel ban tomorrow.

The couple also revealed that as South Africans they are not allowed to enter many countries without transit visas.

Luke Ridgway and Sally de Bruyn said they were told it would cost them £1,000 each to get such a visa to go through London Heathrow.

They are booked on a Lufthansa flight for Friday, but fear the flight will not be allowed into South Africa.

Their embassy in Dublin is currently closed.

Meanwhile, Eoghan Corry, editor of Travel Extra, has said airlines are doing all they can to stall a "cash crunch" which could see them fail.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, he said there is "no way" airlines could have seen what was coming.

"There's a very clear law that you get a refund for flights and that seems to be breaking down", he said.

"Airlines seem to be making up the rules as they go along on that.

"A voucher to redeem the fare in 12 months time seems to be the preferred option for a lot of international airlines, but that is very little use for people who need cash back quickly".

Mr Corry said Irish people currently in Australia or New Zealand "can certainly get home" but the reduction in flight numbers has increased prices.

He said you can expect to pay 30% to 40% over the odds, and that your best bet is finding flights that have several stopovers.

The supply and demand equations "just don't work anymore", he said.

"We had people arriving in Dublin Airport yesterday to board a flight to Australia unaware that they wouldn't be let in", he said.

"There seems to be a large cohort of the population that don't seem to realise exactly what's happened in aviation over the last seven days".

Additional reporting: Maria Flannery, John Kilraine and Fiachra Ó Cionnaith