May 28 (UPI) -- EasyJet said Thursday it plans to cut 4,500 jobs, roughly a third of its entire workforce, as it moves to withstand the economic impact of the coronavirus on the airline industry.
The low-cost airline, based out of London's Luton Airport, also said it will cut its fleet size by 51 planes as well as the budgets for marketing, ground handling and maintenance.
"We realize that these are very difficult times and we are having to consider very difficult decisions which will impact our people, but we want to protect as many jobs as we can for the long-term," EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said in a statement.
EasyJet flies to more than 130 destinations across Europe and the Middle East.
Lundgren added that EasyJet plans to resume flying on June 15 but expects passenger demand to return slowly. He said it could take as long as three years for the carrier to return to where it was before the pandemic.
"We remain focused on doing what is right for the company and its long-term health and success, following the swift action we have taken over the last three months to meet the challenges of the virus," he said.
Brian Strutton, general secretary of the BALPA pilots union, called EasyJet's move an "ill-considered knee-jerk reaction" to the pandemic and will hurt the airline in the long term.
"EasyJet staff will be shocked at the scale of this announcement and only two days ago staff got a 'good news' message from their boss with no mention of job losses, so this is a real kick in the teeth," Strutton said. "Those staff have taken pay cuts to keep the airline afloat and this is the treatment they get in return."
British Airways and Ryanair have also recently announced job cuts and U.S. aviation giant Boeing said Wednesday it sent layoff notices to 6,000 workers.