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Ryanair to cut up to 3,000 jobs blaming 'state aid doping' for other European airlines

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In this Sept. 12, 2018 file photo, a Ryanair plane parks at the airport in Weeze, Germany.
In this Sept. 12, 2018 file photo, a Ryanair plane parks at the airport in Weeze, Germany.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Martin Meissner
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Budget airline Ryanair is drawing up plans to cut as many as 3,000 jobs and close bases in Europe, as the airline addresses the massive downturn in business caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Accusing European governments of unfairly bailing out major competitors, the budget airline announced a restructuring programme on Friday that includes plans for unpaid leave and pay cuts of as much as 20%.

In a company statement sent to Euronews, the airline says the plans will be "subject to consultations", and "may result in the loss of up to 3,000 mainly pilot and cabin crew jobs... and the closure of a number of aircraft bases across Europe until traffic recovers". Office staff would also be affected, the company added.

Ryanair blames the "expected significant decline" in air traffic this year, and competition "distorted" by what it claims is €30 billion in "selective State Aid 'doping' for flag carriers" in Europe.

Michael O'Leary -- Chief Executive Officer of Ryanair whose 50% pay cut will now be extended until March 2021, the company says -- singled out the French and German governments.

"We regret these job cuts. We regret these pay cuts, but they're what the well-run airlines like Ryanair and others will have to do just to survive and compete against the likes of Lufthansa and Air France receiving tens of billions of state aid from their national governments," he said.

"The French government, for example, in the last month have announced a rule where they're going to refund airport taxes, but only for French Airlines. It's manifestly unfair. It's in breach of the state aid rules and it's in breach of competition rules."

'Tsunami of job losses' anticipated

Ryanair says it intends to challenge the "unlawful and discriminatory" state aid in the European courts, which it argues is in breach of EU rules. The company adds that it will operate less than one percent of its flights from April to June, and that it expects passenger numbers not to return to 2019 levels until mid-2022 at the earliest.

Following the budget airline's announcement on Friday Brian Strutton, General Secretary of the British Airline Pilots' Association, said he expected a "tsunami of job losses" to hit the aviation industry.

"I expect that all airlines are going to be making similar kinds of announcements now and we are going to be seeing an industry in crisis," he said.

Earlier this week British Airways said it might have to axe up to 12,000 jobs from its 42,000-strong workforce.

BA's parent company IAG -- which also owns Iberia and Vueling -- explained the announcement by saying it would take several years to return to previous passenger levels.

The Unite union has accused the airline of acting too soon, defending government-supported schemes as long as they are industry-wide.

Oliver Richardson, the union's National Officer for Aviation, told Sky News that Ryanair and IAG were seeking to "knock out the competition and dominate the market".