Aer Lingus is to cut up to 500 jobs due to the collapse in aviation traffic during the Covid-19 crisis. 

In a statement, the airline said it has today formally notified the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection regarding proposed collective redundancies at the airline. 

It said the crisis was having a "catastrophic" effect on the aviation industry, and that the company is currently operating less than 5% of its normal schedule. 

In addition, it has no certainty as to when services might be restored, or the future demand for travel once those services resume. 

Aer Lingus said the situation was exacerbated in Ireland by the 14-day quarantine requirement for arriving passengers, and travel advisories against all non-essential travel. 

"Ireland has failed to take steps that other European Member States have taken. They have progressively restored transport services and connectivity in response to a European Commission invitation to do so," the statement from the airline said. 

"The requirement to reduce the size of the airline in response to the crisis means that today Aer Lingus has issued a notification to the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection regarding proposed collective redundancies in the airline. Aer Lingus has informed the Minister that headcount reductions of up to 500 employees across the business are anticipated," it continued. 

Aer Lingus is now commencing the required consultation process with employee representative organisations.

Informing staff of the 500 redundancies via a video message, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Donal Moriarty confirmed that the job losses will arise in the areas of inflight services, ground operations maintenance and engineering and head office support functions. 

Outlining the unprecedented scale of the crisis, he said that IATA had forecast that the aviation sector will lose over $84 billion this year - the biggest losses in aviation history. Losses of a further $16 billion are forecast for 2021.

By contrast, airlines lost $31 billion during the 2008 global financial crisis.

Mr Moriarty also noted that this week, Aer Lingus has just eight aircraft operating passenger flights compared to 57 in the same week last year. 

On Monday, the airline operated 24 short haul flights, down from 259 on the same day last year.

Long haul flights on that day fell from 34 this time last year, to just six.

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Mr Moriarty also noted that short haul carrier, Level Europe yesterday announced its intention to file for insolvency, and has ceased trading with immediate effect, while Australian carrier, Quantas has cancelled international flights until the end of October. 

He said that it was in this context that Aer Lingus is now proceeding with up to 500 job cuts, as well as layoffs and further pay reductions that were already communicated.

In addition, the airline intends to press ahead with implementing work practice reforms already outlined to staff. 

He reiterated that the steps being taken were all strictly necessary for the future of the company, adding that the airline is determined that the Aer Lingus that operates into the future will instil pride in those who work there and those who travel with it. 

Aer Lingus has told cabin crew that layoffs among their grade are inevitable, as the schedule for summer 2021 will be significantly less than in previous years.

In a video briefing this evening, Head of Inflight Services Mary Montgomery confirmed that from 21 June, pay for cabin crew in Dublin and Cork will fall to 30% of pre-coronavirus levels, while those based in Shannon will be temporarily laid off until "at least" the end of August.

She outlined new work practices which the airline intends to implement without agreement, including new crewing arrangements on board flights, and responsibility for marshalling passengers when they arrive in Dublin.

Ms Montgomery stressed that these "reasonable and necessary" measures are permanent, as they will enable the airline to operate efficiently and competitively when consumer demand rebounds.

She said it was unclear when pay will recover from the new low of 30%, as the airline could not see when there would be "notable" increases in flying beyond 30%. 

Ms Montgomery also said some staff had voiced concern to the airline about "the behaviour of a small number of cabin crew on social media sites".

She said such activity could have a very negative impact on the Aer Lingus brand, adding: "I would like to remind those responsible of the seriousness of such activity and that there will be consequences for those found to be in breach of the social media policy."

Fórsa to engage with Aer Lingus management over redundancies

Responding to the news of the job losses, the trade union, Fórsa said that it would engage with Aer Lingus management regarding proposed redundancies.

In a statement, the union, which represents cabin crew, pilots and certain management staff in the company, said it would "enter discussions with the objective of minimising the number of job losses and protecting the incomes of Aer Lingus staff".

SIPTU meanwhile, has called for an urgent meeting with Aer Lingus management following today's announcement.  

SIPTU Aviation Sector Organiser Neil McGowan said: "The announcement from management that it has informed the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty that it plans to reduce the numbers at the airline by 500 workers has shocked and upset our members in Aer Lingus.

"The airline must engage with the Union immediately and in addition to limiting the numbers exiting and maintaining employment in the airline, management must also step back from the planned lay-offs and further pay reductions it announced earlier this week."

The Department of Transport has urged all the parties to "engage constructively during this challenging time".

It said the industrial relations machinery of the State was available to assist "should the need arise". 

The Department pointed out that Aer Lingus is availing of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and that it was also open to the company to apply for support under the Pandemic Stabilisation Fund. 

It said that the recently established Aviation Recovery Taskforce would issue an interim report with recommendations for recovery of the sector shortly. 

Fine Gael TD for Dublin Fingal, Alan Farrell, said the job losses are "deeply saddening" and he urged all sides to "engage in good faith".

Labour TD for Dublin Fingal, Duncan Smith said the job cuts were "a hammer blow for workers and their families". He said Aer Lingus was using the Covid-19 pandemic "to pursue their long-term cost cutting agenda to reduce staffing and worsen terms and conditions".

Sinn Féin TD Darren O'Rourke called on the Government to intervene with Aer Lingus.

He said: "The government need to intervene in this situation and use their influence to protect workers, their jobs and their pay and conditions."