Virgin Atlantic is considering cutting 600 jobs from the airline’s 8,500-strong workforce.

The airline said it was restructuring its business to cope with the economic downturn. It will be talking to staff and unions to find ways of avoiding compulsory redundancies.

Chief executive Steve Ridgway said: “No airline is immune from the recession and we continue to reshape our business to ensure we’re in the best position for the longer term.

“With falling demand for travel, airlines have to reduce their costs through a variety of measures, including cutting capacity, freezing pay, unpaid leave and, regrettably, adjusting staff numbers.”

Workers’ union Unite has condemned the move. National officer Brian Boyd said: “Unite will be entering into a series of wide ranging discussions with Virgin management, with an undertaking to do everything possible to avoid compulsory redundancies.

“Unite members at Virgin have only just been told that their reward for another year of hard work is a pay freeze. This latest announcement is a real blow for the loyal and hard working crew at Virgin.”

Meanwhile, Ryanair is to cut 200 pilot, cabin crew and engineer jobs from its Dublin airport base. The low cost airline blamed the introduction of a €10 tourist tax by the Irish Government and denied it had been affected by the recession.

Ryanair is to remove four aircraft from the Dublin base and reduce the number of flights this summer. A further 100 jobs are to be cut from the airline’s Shannon base.