Surprise departure for the boss of Heathrow Airport

Marion Dakers
HEATHROW’S chief executive has announced his departure, after six years of steering the airport through expansion, rows with airlines and regulatory overhauls.

Colin Matthews surprised the industry by revealing that he will step down after the new Terminal Two building opens this summer.

No successor has been named. The airport has already employed headhunters to search for a replacement for Matthews, who is believed to have no new role lined up.

Insiders said his resignation was not directly linked to his long-running row with the watchdog over the landing fees at Europe’s biggest airport.

Heathrow announced yesterday that it had dropped its opposition to the Civil Aviation Authority’s “draconian” ruling to cap the airport’s fee increases at 1.5 per cent below inflation. The decision to give up the challenge followed months of protests that the lower-than-expected cap would limit investment in upgrades.

Airlines including British Airways had lobbied for even starker limits.

“Colin has done a fantastic job of improving Heathrow for passengers and will remain as chief executive until his successor is in place to ensure a smooth transition,” said chairman Sir Nigel Rudd.

The airport is also reaching the final stretch of its fight to build a third runway. Heathrow has been shortlisted by the government’s Airports Commission, which is due to make a final recommendation in summer 2015. This week the company launched a report declaring the airport to be a “national asset”, whose closure would cause the surrounding firms in West London to shut or downsize.

In 2008, when Matthews joined Heathrow from Severn Trent, the airport carried 67m passengers and posted pre-tax losses of £373m. Last year it took more than 72m passengers and made a profit of £426m including the sale of Stansted.