Heathrow airport is to close two of its four terminals in response to the collapse in air traffic because of the coronavirus crisis.
The airport has revealed that, within weeks, only its two newest terminals – 2 and 5 – will remain open.
Terminals 3 and 4 are to close, and dozens of airlines that are currently based there will need to be moved.
The logistics will be difficult, as staff and systems are merged. Terminal 3 contains big carriers including Emirates, American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic – which has moved its Gatwick operations to Heathrow.
Terminal 4 is the home of Skyteam, including Air France and KLM, as well as many Middle Eastern and Asian carriers.
Terminal 2 is the hub for the Star Alliance, while Terminal 5 was designed for British Airways – which now shares it with its sister carrier, Iberia.
A spokesperson for Heathrow, said: “Our teams are working closely with our airlines and other partners to ensure this move is as smooth and efficient and possible.
“Consolidating our operations will also help us to protect long-term jobs at the airport by reducing our cost base.
“The significant reduction in passenger traffic will ensure that passengers are able to continue to adhere to the government’s social distancing guidance even as the operation is consolidated.”
Meanwhile, Europe’s airlines, airports and related business are demanding immediate financial help, saying: “The catastrophic effect Covid-19 is having on the aviation industry is clearly only at the beginning stages.”
A statement issued jointly by Airlines for Europe, Airports Council International, the European Travel Retail Confederation and other groups, said: “Member states must provide financial support as quickly as possible to the whole travel ecosystem. There is currently a cash liquidity issue at every level of the air travel ecosystem.
“The aviation sector is a strategically important sector. It must be positioned as a critical enabler of Europe’s economic recovery once the crisis has passed.”
They claim that aviation represents more than 12 million jobs and €800bn (£705bn) in European economic activity.