Ryanair will embark on a restructuring and job reduction programme in July, which could result in the loss of up to 3,000 roles across the group.
The budget carrier said on Friday (1 May) while the cuts will mainly affect pilots and cabin crew, it would also extend to head office and back office teams.
Staff will be asked to take unpaid leave and pay cuts of up to 20%, while group chief executive Michael O’Leary will forego half of his pay for the remainder of the carrier’s financial year through to March 2021.
"Ryanair now expects the recovery of passenger demand and pricing, to 2019 levels, will take at least two years, until summer 2022 at the earliest," said the group in a trading update issued on Friday morning, setting out the next stage of its response to the coronavirus crisis.
Ryanair said the current competitive aviation landscape in Europe was being "distorted" by the "unprecedented volumes" of state aid supplied by EU governments to national airlines and legacy carriers, which it claims runs to more than €30 billion.
It has vowed to challenge what it describes as "unlawful and discriminatory" awards of state aid in the European courts, claiming they breach EU competition and state aid rules.
The group believes this "state aid doping" will allow rival carriers to fund "many years of below cost selling", damaging "fair competition" in the European aviation market.
Ryanair is also reviewing its fleet growth plans and aircraft orders; it is in talks with Boeing and subsidiary Lauda’s A320 lessors to cut planned aircraft delivers over the next two years. In addition, Ryanair has confirmed it will close "a number" of its European bases until air traffic recovers.
It declined on Friday to offer guidance for its full-year 2021 (year to 31 March 2021) financials, but stressed the group expects to report a net loss in excess of €100 million during Q1 (three months to 30 June), with further losses expected in Q2 (three months to 30 September) due to a "substantial decline in traffic" during its peak summer flying season.
"Ryanair entered this unprecedented Covid-19 crisis with almost €4 billion in cash, said the group. "We continue to actively manage these cash resources to ensure we can survive this Covid-19 pandemic, and more importantly, return to lower fare flight schedules as soon as possible, when our customers can look forward to more low air fares as we are forced to compete with flag carrier airlines who have received €30 billion in state aid ’doping’ to allow them to sustain below cost selling for months after this Covid-19 crisis has passed, as it certainly will over the coming months."
Brian Strutton, general secretary of pilots union Balpa, said: “There has been no warning or consultation by Ryanair about the 3,000 potential job losses.
"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.”