OPINION is divided about Heathrow Airport. ‘The gateway to hell,’ is one view. Others are more charitable, with Terminal 5 winning plaudits for its huge check-in concourse — although it all gets unpleasantly squeezed once you’re through security.
Passengers tend to assume that British Airways is responsible for Terminal 5, pictured, because no other airline group flies from there, but that’s not the case. Hence, the tension between Heathrow Airport Ltd and BA, especially during the pandemic when Heathrow restricted the number of flights in a bid to limit the chaos.
After nine tricky years, John Holland- Kaye, the smoothtalking CEO of Heathrow Airport, is leaving his £1.5 million post. So who should take over?
Emma Gilthorpe, Heathrow’s operating chief, is a favourite, but an outside candidate might bring some fresh thinking. I’ve heard the veteran retail maestro Archie Norman, chairman of Marks & Spencer, mentioned, while Gatwick’s Stewart Wingate has his backers.
The new boss’s in-tray will be weighty. The airport needs to expand and getting planning consent and Government support should be easier now that Boris Johnson is no longer PM. His opposition to a third runway was largely due to being the MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, which borders the airport.
Then, this week, Heathrow was told by the Civil Aviation Authority to cut its fees for airlines by 20 per cent from 2024. The airlines don’t believe this is enough, which is probably another way of saying that savings won’t be passed on to passengers.
Who knows what Transport secretary Mark Harper makes of all this. He’s either determined to keep a low profile (unlike one of his ambitious predecessors, Grant Shapps) or too caught up in battle with the rail unions to tell us where he stands.
This summer’s getaway will be the big test for all concerned.