Gatwick is closing one of its two terminals for the first time due to plummeting passenger numbers, with the move coming as airports called for a Government bailout to help weather the coronavirus lockdown.

Britain’s second-busiest airport announced that it will be shutting its North Terminal for the first time since it opened in 1989 in an “unprecedented” move to “shield the business” from the pandemic downturn.

Gatwick said some staff would be moved over to its South Terminal and that it was in discussions with other employees about furlough arrangements.

The move comes after other airports, such as Manchester, announced terminal closures, and City Airport in London said it was closing down completely for a month from next week.

On Friday, Stewart Wingate, the Gatwick CEO, said: “Gatwick is a resilient but also responsible business, and during these extraordinary times we need to take unprecedented measures to protect the health and wellbeing of our staff and passengers, while also shielding the business from the impact of coronavirus.”

The aviation industry has been one of the first to bear the economic brunt of the pandemic, with many major airlines grounding the majority of their fleets as countries impose travel lockdowns.

However, earlier this week, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, told aviation leaders that bespoke Government financial assistance would be a “last resort” and urged airports and airlines to turn to shareholders to help them through the crisis.

But the Airport Operators’ Association warned Mr Sunak, in a letter seen by The Telegraph, that many airports do not qualify for the Government’s existing help schemes, meaning they would struggle to stay open without “liquidity support” from the taxpayer.

A senior airport industry source said: “While low-level discussions are ongoing with the Government, unless we see action in the coming days we’ll see more airports scaling down operations or closing. 

“That would put at risk the UK supply chain and leave remote communities with no or limited connectivity to the rest of the UK. It would also make critical flights like repatriations and supplies as well as maintenance for offshore wind and North Sea oil and gas more difficult.”

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