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Turbulence at Heathrow as third of top team exit

Three members of the executive committee quit as the airport struggles with Covid travel restrictions

8/1/2021 7:20:00 PM

🛫 Heathrow airport has been rocked by the exodus of almost half of its executive committee as it grapples with the fallout from the pandemic

Three members of the executive committee quit as the airport struggles with Covid travel restrictions

Carol Hui, Andrew Macmillan and Chris Garton, chief of staff, chief strategy officer, and chief solutions officer, have quit Heathrow’s eight-person leadership team.In internal correspondence, seen by The Telegraph, chief executive John Holland-Kaye said he was “very sorry to see them leave us” but was “confident that the new exec team will provide the leadership needed to win the recovery”.

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The executive committee is responsible for the day-to-day business of the airport and also includes finance chief Javier Echave and Emma Gilthorpe, the airport's operating head that industry insiders believe is best-placed to take over from Mr Holland-Kaye at some point in the future.

Three Heathrow insiders will take their place as the executive team is broadened to nine people. Heathrow has launched a search for the airport’s legal counsel – a position as it decides whether or not to press ahead with the building of the third runway.

Mr Holland-Kaye said that Ms Hui had been instrumental in “leading us to success with the Airports Commission recommendation for expansion and the subsequent legal appeals”.“Carol is probably the best in-house lawyer in the UK, and has been a trusted advisor to me and the board. We will take a little time to choose the right person to succeed her as general counsel,” he added.

The exodus comes with Heathrow at a crossroads having been hit hard by Covid travel restrictions.Last week it reduced forecasts such that it now expects to welcome fewer passengers this year than in 2020. The airport is forecasting 21.5m passengers in 2021 compared with 22.1m last year.

Bosses at the airport were forced to appeal to lenders to avoid defaulting on a £15bn debt pile later this year.Meanwhile, the fate of the third runway remains in the balance. Heathrow has insisted that the expansion will go ahead, but conceded that there will be delays. Mr Holland-Kaye has warned that it will be 10 to 15 years before the controversial £14bn project will become a reality. Sources close to the airport insisted that the executive changes would have no bearing on the third runway.

In addition, tensions remain high with regulator the Civil Aviation Authority after a demand to increase airport charges by £2.7bn to cover losses during the crisis. It will now open talks with the watchdog over how much it can charge under a new regulatory agreement.

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Later last week, Heathrow did receive a boost as Britain re-opened its border with the US. More flights operate between Heathrow and North America than any other area, including Europe. Read more: The Telegraph »

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