Airports will collapse within weeks without emergency funding for the firms that supply baggage handlers and refuel planes, warn ground-handling firms.

A report in the Mail on Sunday said ground-handling firms told transport minister Kelly Tolhurst that they are “perilously close to collapse” and likely to run out of cash within six weeks.

It said the UK’s four biggest such companies – Swissport, Menzies Aviation, WFS and Dnata – are understood to have already laid off thousands of staff after suffering a 95% drop in revenues because of  full or partial airport closures, including Gatwick, Manchester, London City and Teesside International.

A joint letter said if one of the big four firms ceases to operate, the impact will be “devastating” and will leave the entire UK aviation system “unable to function”.

Sources told the Mail that, unless the Treasury helps with a rescue package, the firms will be forced to furlough their workers.

This will leave no ground staff to handle cargo such as ventilator components and other medical supplies for the NHS.

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