Swissport has told its 900 staff in Ireland that it may be forced to make difficult choices in the coming weeks.

But the ground handling company also confirmed that the 4,500 job cuts announced by it in the UK today will not impact its employees here.

In a letter sent to the company's staff at Dublin, Cork and Shannon this afternoon, seen by RTÉ News, Tony Tully, Vice President Major Stations and Ireland at Swissport said the situation in the UK is different to Ireland.

"We want to make clear that the UK schemes around COVID payments and UK labour laws are different to Irish legislation," he said.

"This unfortunately means the announcements in the UK must be made at this time."

He added that although Swissport in Ireland faces exactly the same types of challenges, the Irish Government’s policies are different and this has so far enabled the company to take some additional time to consider every option to safeguard as many jobs as possible.

Mr Tully also said the company remains committed to working with its airports, airlines and other business partners to better understand what the future may look like for Swissport Ireland.

"However, the reality is that in the coming weeks we may be forced to make difficult choices," he said.

"We are committed to ongoing and constructive dialogue with SIPTU and will be writing to everyone to advise you of the outcome to this continued review and the options available to all of us."

"We will do this in close consultation with SIPTU and your union representative as well as your local management teams."

Swissport offers ground handling services including baggage handling, passenger services, plane refueling, freight and cargo services here.

Earlier the firm said it planned to axe about half its UK workforce, as the coronavirus pandemic keeps planes grounded.

"When aircraft aren't flying, our source of revenue disappears," Jason Holt, CEO of Swissport UK and Ireland, said in a statement, adding that "upwards of 4,000" were set to lose their jobs. 

"As of May, revenue has dropped by around 75% across our business," Holt said.

Swissport "must adapt to the unfortunate reality that there simply aren't enough aircraft flying for our business to continue running as it did before Covid-19; and there won't be for some time to come," he added. 

The global aviation sector has been slammed by the virus, with German carrier Lufthansa cutting 22,000 jobs and other airlines slashing thousands of posts combined.

As governments ease their lockdowns, airlines are taking to the skies once more to transport passengers but experts warn that it could take a several years to return to the pre-virus number of daily flights.

Swissport is owned by China's HNA Group and is the world's largest provider of airport ground services and air cargo handling with operations at 300 airports in 47 countries.

Meanwhile, up to 20,000 jobs could go at Britain's airports, an industry group warned, calling on the government to do more to help an aviation industry that was shut down by the COVID pandemic and is now struggling to restart due to quarantine rules.

The Airport Operators Association (AOA), which represents more than 50 airports, said future passenger numbers at UK airports were expected to be significantly lower, and analysis of its members suggested up to 20,000 jobs were at risk.

Up to 110,000 jobs could be lost in industries supported by airports, AOA warned.

AOA called on the UK government to scrap its quarantine regime, provide relief from business rates, extend a job retention scheme, directly fund the sector regulator and suspend air passenger taxes to help save jobs in the industry.

"These jobs figures clearly show that a key component of the UK's infrastructure is on its knees, with no relief to the current crisis expected," AOA's chief executive Karen Dee said.

"Government needs to recognise the immense crisis facing the country's airport communities and take action to support UK aviation and protect livelihoods," she added.

UK-based airlines British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and EasyJet have already announced close to 20,000 job losses between them. The country's biggest airport Heathrow has also started a voluntary redundancy scheme.

Britain has a 14-day quarantine policy in place for arrivals into the country from abroad, which airlines, airports and the hospitality sector have said is deterring international travel at a time when they had been hoping for it to recover.

The rule is due to be reviewed on June 29, three weeks after it was introduced and could be replaced by "air bridges", which would allow restriction-free travel between countries with low infection rates.

Additional reporting AFP