London Heathrow CEO Holland-Kaye To Step Down

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London Heathrow Airport (LHR) said CEO John Holland-Kaye has informed the airport’s board he plans to stand down in 2023 after nine years at the helm of Europe’s busiest airport.

The board said Feb. 2 it has begun a selection process for his replacement and, in order to ensure a smooth handover, Holland-Kaye will remain in place as CEO until his successor takes over.

Holland-Kaye became Heathrow’s CEO in 2014 and over the years has faced major challenges, such as the controversial process of trying to push forward plans for a third runway, tensions with airlines over airport charges and upheaval and losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The post-COVID recovery, once it began, was marked by operational disruption and capacity caps linked to staffing shortages, and most recently the airport had to contend with Border Force strikes.

Last summer, with post-COVID travel demand strong, LHR and Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) were the most affected airports in Europe regarding staffing shortages, leading to widespread flight cancellations and disruption. Heathrow had to impose a controversial cap on capacity, which it removed at the end of October.

“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 decarbonization,” Heathrow Airport said in a Feb. 2 statement. “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.”

LHR is owned and managed by Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd, which is owned by a consortium led by Spanish infrastructure group Ferrovial and the Qatar Investment Authority. The airport said in January that it had a busy Christmas and New Year season with more than 5.9 million passengers traveling in the month of December, up 90% year-over-year. LHR-New York Kennedy ({{JFK)}} is the London airport’s busiest route.

The airport said 92% of passengers passed through security in under 10 minutes during the Christmas peak. In the year as a whole, it recorded 61.6 million passengers in 2022, 76% of 2019 levels and 42.2 million higher than in 2021 and the highest passenger increase of any airport in Europe.

Heathrow said in January: “2022 ended on a high with our busiest Christmas in three years and a smooth and efficient service for passengers, thanks to the hard work of our colleagues and close planning with airlines, their ground handlers and Border Force.”

Helen Massy-Beresford

Based in Paris, Helen Massy-Beresford covers European and Middle Eastern airlines, the European Commission’s air transport policy and the air cargo industry for Aviation Week & Space Technology and Aviation Daily.