Aer Lingus management has briefed SIPTU officials representing around 1,700 employees on the financial difficulties facing the airline.

Aer Lingus recently announced losses of €20m for this year, and has forecast potential losses in excess of €100m for 2009.

There has been speculation that the airline might seek to shed up to 1,500 jobs by outsourcing ground operations, and by using American crews on transatlantic services.

Today's two hour meeting was described as preliminary and exploratory. It is understood that while management outlined the scale of the financial challenges facing the airline, little detail was given regarding the possible nature of cost cuts.

Afterwards, SIPTU National Industrial Secretary Gerry McCormack declined to comment on the meeting, saying he wished to inform shop stewards first on the management presentation.

Management will meet craft union representatives this afternoon, and is scheduled to hold a similar meeting with IMPACT officials tomorrow morning.

The consultation sessions are being chaired by Kevin Foley, the Director of Conciliation at the Labour Relations Commission.

Leaving the meeting today, Mr Foley said the parties were committed to continuing their dialogue and engagement - and that the Labour Relations Commission would endeavour to assist them.

The Aer Lingus board - which has so far failed to agree on approving a management cost-cutting plan - is scheduled to meet again on Friday.