Heathrow Airport CEO to stand down

View of London Heathrow Airport
Photo Credit: Heathrow Airport

LONDON – Following a year of intense criticism by airline operators, London Heathrow Airport CEO John Holland-Kaye is set to stand down from the position.

News source The Guardian has today reported the announcement of the Chief Executive’s intention to resign at some stage this year, after what it characterises as a difficult year for the UK’s largest airport.

Heathrow Airport management have faced the year mired by criticism of their handling of the post-pandemic resurgence in air travel. The imposition of a travel on passengers across the peak summer season drew an intense backlash from some of the major airlines.

UK news source The Independent reports that John Holland-Kaye has advised the board of his intention to resign. It is understood that Holland-Kaye will stand down from the top position once a suitable successor has been arranged.

Mr Holland-Kaye has held the CEO position for nine years, having originally taken up the role in July 2014. Prior to taking up the role, he was development director, and was responsible for delivering the £2.5 billion Terminal 2 project on time and on budget for the airport complex.

He also played a key role in the securing of government support for the development of a third runway.

According to The Guardian report, Heathrow chairperson Paul Deighton has characterised Mr Holland-Kaye as “an extraordinary leader of Heathrow.”

A turbulent year

With the progressive lifting of restrictions and attendant surge in travel demand after the global pandemic hiatus, 2022 proved a difficult year for airlines and airports universally.

For London Heathrow and CEO Holland-Kaye it became a year when criticisms were levelled against airport management by a series of major airline operators.

July 2022 saw UAE flag carrier Emirates hit out angrily at Heathrow airport’s decision to limit departure numbers to no more than 100,000 passengers per day until September 11.

The Gulf carrier described the Airport’s move, which only gave carriers a 36-hour window to respond, as ‘highly regrettable’, saying: “Their communications not only dictated the specific flights on which we should throw out paying passengers, but also threatened legal action for non-compliance.”

Emirates went on to characterise the Heathrow situation as “Airmageddon.”

The national flag carrier British Airways followed suit the following month in August 2022, suspending ticket sales on short-haul flights following the imposition of the capacity cap by the airport.

A further body blow was delivered by the carrier Virgin Atlantic in November 2022. In a continued row over charges the airline withdrew its support for the plans to develop the third runway.

Heathrow Airport statement

Heathrow Airport management have now released the following statement, confirming the resignation:

After nine years as CEO of Heathrow Airport, John Holland-Kaye has informed the Board of his intention to stand down as CEO during 2023.

The Board would like to thank John for his exceptional leadership since 2014, building a strong management team, developing a consumer-focused culture, improving cost efficiency and putting Heathrow at the forefront of global aviation’s decarbonisation.

The transformation of the airport during John’s time as CEO has been recognised as Heathrow won a number of significant awards including: Sunday Times top 30 employer; one of the top 10 airports in the world (voted by passengers); and Edie’s Sustainable Business of the Year Award.

Three of the most significant successes of John’s tenure were the development of the plan for Heathrow expansion that secured overwhelming Parliamentary approval, successfully navigating the business through the COVID-19 crisis and the recovery in demand, and his leadership in putting aviation firmly on course for net zero by 2050.

The Chair of Heathrow Airport, Lord Deighton said:

“John has been an extraordinary leader of Heathrow. During the past nine years, he has worked tirelessly and collaboratively with shareholders, Ministers, airlines and other stakeholders to ensure the country can be proud of its ‘front door’.”

“The Board would like to put on record our gratitude to John for his dedication and commitment to Heathrow throughout his tenure as CEO.”

The Board has now initiated a selection process for John’s replacement. In order to ensure a smooth handover, John will remain as CEO until his successor starts in post.

By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 5 Min Read
5 Min Read
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