Ryanair has warned pilots that it cannot rule out extended lay-offs and/or job losses in the coming months to protect the long-term viability of its Irish operation, as it has no certainty about when aviation services will return to normal.

In a memo to the airline's Irish-based pilots, Director of Operations Neil McMahon notes that the Covid-19 crisis has had a "devastating" effect on the aviation industry, as government-imposed restrictions have led to the grounding of almost all of Ryanair's fleet from 24 March until at least the end of May.

Mr McMahon says Ryanair's priority will be to protect as many jobs as possible as the airline adjusts to the reality of 99% of its flights being cancelled for April and May.

However, he cautions staff that "beyond May 31 we still have no certainty on a return to service date and cannot rule out further measures to protect the long term viability of our operation in Ireland such as extended lay offs and or job losses."

Mr McMahon informs staff that executives in senior management have taken a 50% pay cut for April and May while continuing to work full time, adding that these urgent measures must be taken to reduce working time and payroll costs.

While 99% of flights are not operating, Ryanair is continuing to operate a small number a routes to maintain connectivity, and to assist European Union governments with urgent rescue and medical flights.

Mr McMahon says that since the airline needs to keep a limited operation running, it does not intend to lay off any of the Irish-based pilots in April or May, and will access the state's Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) where applicable to support employment of staff during this period of reduced activity.

He confirms that Ryanair has concluded an "emergency agreement with the Fórsa trade union which will deliver income to Irish-based pilots in April and May through a combination of payments from Ryanair and Irish Covid-19 TWSS support.

Mr McMahon notes that the TWSS is based on net earnings in January and February but does not pay any support for higher earners (over €76,000) including Irish-based captains.

He assures staff that there is no requirement for them to apply for support from social welfare, as for the months of April and May of this year only, the airline will pay its directly employed pilots at Irish bases 50% of their gross monthly basic salary inclusive of any State benefits or Government subsidies applicable now or in the future.

He also tells pilots that when the airline is in a position to recommence commercial flights, it will involve a gradual build up of the schedule, with only a limited portion of the fleet returning to service initially, and increasing thereafter on a phased basis subject to customer demand and the lifting of government restrictions.