Airbus has told its 135,000 employees to brace themselves for major staffing cuts as the company fights off the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

In a letter to staff sent late on Friday, Chief Executive Guillaume Faury warned Airbus had lost up to one third of its business due to the pandemic and was “bleeding cash at an unprecedented speed.” The letter, reported by news outlets including Reuters, Financial Times and the BBC, added that the current drop in demand did not reflect the worst-case scenario and would be kept under review. Airbus said it would not comment on internal communications.

Job cuts may go beyond government furlough schemes

In the letter, Faury warns that the cuts may go beyond the implementation of government-backed furlough schemes. He said: “The survival of Airbus is in question if we don’t act now.”

The company is due to give first-quarter results shortly against the backdrop of the crisis which has left airlines and associated companies within the aviation sector struggling to survive. Aircraft deliveries have virtually halted over the past month.

Airbus has put 3,000 workers on the government’s furlough scheme in France but has warned that more “far-reaching measures” may be needed. He added that the company would explore “all options” following a drop in demand for new aircraft.

Narrow-body jet production slashed by one third

Airbus said it would slash narrow-body jet production by a third to 40 jets a month to save cash. It also issued targets for wide-body jets implying that it would cut production by up to 42 per cent compared with previously published rates.

Airbus is reported to be in discussion with European governments on loan schemes to assist sectors struggling with the impact of the pandemic. Reuters also reported that the company has expanded its commercial credit lines with banks, buying what Faury described as “time to adapt and resize”.

Demand may take a decade to reach pre-pandemic levels

In the letter, Faury said it was too early to judge the pace of the recovery. He said demand could take up to a decade to reach pre-pandemic levels. The BBC reported that industry analysts had predicated a downturn lasting 3-4 years.

Airbus has around 13,500 workers in the UK, with most of involved with wing manufacture at its sites in Broughton in north Wales, and Filton in Bristol.