Britain’s second-biggest airport is to close one of its two terminals for the whole of April – and restrict scheduled operations to just eight hours a day.

Gatwick airport will consolidate operations into the South Terminal from 1 April due to the collapse in air travel during the coronavirus crisis.

The single runway, which is normally the busiest in the world, will be in use for scheduled flights only between 2pm and 10pm each day – though it will remain open for emergency landings and diversions outside these hours.

Gatwick had previously said it would keep both terminals open.

The airport’s chief executive, Stewart Wingate, said: “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.

“We are taking these difficult decisions now, so that we are in a position to recover quickly and get back to generating jobs and economic benefits for the region and wider economy well into the future.  

“We will also be providing some opportunities so that any of our staff who have time during this period of reduced operations, that choose to, can help support people in our local communities.”

The airport said the North Terminal will open only “when airline traffic increases and government public health advice – including on social distancing – is relaxed”.

Gatwick is the main airport for easyJet and the second-biggest base for British Airways. Norwegian is normally a significant operator too.

Passengers on not-yet-cancelled flights whose departures are rendered impossible due to this decision are advised to contact their airline.

Earlier this week London Southend airport said it would open only three afternoons each week, while London City airport has closed completely until May.

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