Norwegian Air is to suspend more than 4,000 flights and temporarily layoff around half of its staff due to the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak and the US travel ban on Europe.

The airline was already struggling to bring its costs under control following an aggressive expansion, which saw it end its Ireland-US routes after just two years of operation.

Reduced demand and travel restrictions in the face of the coronavirus - including the US ban announced overnight - has only added pressure to the firm.

As a result it said it would ground 40% of its long-haul fleet and cancel 25% of its short-haul flights until May.

A knock-on effect of this would be the temporary laying off of up to 50% of employees across all departments.

It also said that the numbers involved could increase.

"This is an unprecedented situation and our main priority continues to be the care and safety of our customers and colleagues," said Norwegian CEO Jacob Schram. "The new restrictions imposed further pressure on an already difficult situation.

"We urge international governments to act now to ensure that the aviation industry can protect jobs and continue to be a vital part of the global economic recovery."

The airline said it has initiated consultations with unions and will soon give notice to staff that will be affected.