Ryanair is planning to shed up to 3,000 jobs because of the “unprecedented” coronavirus crisis that has devastated the industry.
The budget airline also hit out at the state bailout of competitors, including Lufthansa and Air France, which chief executive Michael O’Leary has criticised as “financial doping” and “manifestly unfair”.
The jobs to go will be mainly pilot and cabin crew jobs, while the remaining staff face unpaid leave and having their pay slashed by up to 20%.
The group is also to close of “a number of aircraft bases across Europe” until demand for air travel recovers.
Mr O’Leary, whose pay was cut by 50% for April and May, has agreed to extend the reduction for the remainder of the financial year to March 2021.
The airline said its flights will remain grounded until “at least July” and passenger numbers will not return to 2019 levels “until summer 2022 at the earliest”.
For the 12 months to the end of March 2021, its forecast is that it will carry fewer than 100 million passengers. Its target for the period was 154 million.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr O’Leary said: “We have never faced a period like this in the airline industry.”
He added: “When we do return to flying its clear we are going to have to fly with both hands tied behind our back because our competitors Lufthansa have just received €12bn in state aid, Air France is going to receive €10bn in state aid.
“These guys will have the money to engage in below cost selling for the next three or four years.
“So not only are we facing less flying with fewer flights, but prices are going to be incredibly low, which is good for consumers but bad for the airlines.
“And if we are going to carry a third less passengers this year I am afraid we are going to need fewer pilots and fewer cabin crew.”
He said the 3,000 jobs to be cut amounted to 15% of the workforce.
Condemning the “financial doping of state aid” as a breach of competition rules, Mr O’Leary said: “We regret these job cuts, we regret these pay cuts, but they are what the well run airlines like Ryanair and other will have to do to survive and compete against the likes of Lufthansa and Air France receiving tens of billions of state aid from their national governments.”
Responding to the threatened cuts, Brian Strutton, general secretary of the pilots’ union BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said: “There has been no warning or consultation by Ryanair about the 3000 potential job losses and this is miserable news for pilots and staff who have taken pay cuts under the Government job retention scheme.
“Ryanair seems to have done a u-turn on its ability to weather the COVID storm.
“Aviation workers are now facing a tsunami of job losses.
“The UK Government has to stop daydreaming and keep to the promise made by the chancellor on 17 March to help airlines or this industry, vital to the UK economy, will be devastated.”
Ryanair said it is in “active negotiations” with Boeing to cut the number of planned aircraft deliveries over the next 24 months.
It expects to report a net loss of more than €100m (£87m) between April and May, with “further losses” in the following three months.
The statement went on: “Ryanair entered this unprecedented COVID-19 crisis with almost €4bn (£3.5bn) in cash, and we continue to actively manage these cash resources to ensure that we can survive this COVID-19 pandemic, and more importantly the return to lower fare flight schedules as soon as possible.”