Emirates chairman Sir Tim Clark calls on Heathrow Airport CEO to resign

The summer of 2022 presented an exciting opportunity for the airline industry to rebound from the previous two years of coronavirus-induced travel restrictions. However, at airports like London Heathrow (LHR), inadequate preparation in terms of staff has led to significant disruption and capacity caps. Emirates chairman Sir Tim Clark has now suggested Heathrow’s CEO should step down.


Time to go?

The spark that lit the fire in terms of Clark’s final comments appears to have been the suggestion that Heathrow’s capacity caps could return at a later date. Indeed, as things stand, these daily limits, imposed to combat disruption caused by factors such as understaffing, are expected to be lifted just before the end of the month.

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That should have been a welcome relief for Clark, given Emirates’ reliance on Heathrow as a destination from its international hub in Dubai (DXB). However, according to The Sunday Times, airport CEO John Holland-Kaye suggested the cap could return later in the year, to avoid disruption over the Christmas period. This seems to have been the last straw for Clark, who said:

“It’s inexcusable. Anyone who says such a thing is not the right person for the job.”

Photo: Getty Images

A strained relationship

According to The Independent, Clark is far from the only executive to have swept Heathrow because of the airport’s underestimation of post-pandemic travel demand. Indeed, IATA chief executive and former British Airways CEO Willie Walsh is also said to have described Heathrow’s performance in recent months as “a disgrace”.

Emirates has arguably been the most notable objector to Heathrow ceilings. The airport’s relationship with the airline, whose A380 can be found in model form on one of Heathrow’s roundabouts as shown below, has soured in recent months.

For example, Emirates was so outraged by the caps when they first appeared that it threatened to break them. The Sunday Times notes that Clark now adds:

“[Holland-Kaye’s] The job is to be up there and there looking after consumers, not complaining about not being able to find staff. We did what we had to do – workarounds. Sitting on your hands and saying ‘ho hum’ is delinquency.”

Photo: Getty Images

Lacking investment?

According to the Sunday Times, Clark has been advocating for a new CEO at Heathrow who can develop a closer bond with airport investors. After all, the President of the Emirates pointed to lack of investment as a factor in understaffing, saying:

“Yes, investors were losing billions during the shutdowns, but that’s when you need to invest billions. The owners of Heathrow should have invested a few billion pounds to keep it going, to keep staff the low.”

Emirates has finally backed off from its threats of not meeting the summer capacity cap, by increasing capacity on its Dubai-London Gatwick (LGW) route. However, it will be interesting to see how he would react if the limits did indeed return over the winter, given his strained relationship with Heathrow over the matter.

What do you think of Sir Tim Clark’s comments? Have London Heathrow’s capacity caps impacted your travel plans? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

Source: Sunday Times, The Independent

  • Emirates, Airbus A380, penultimate
    Emirates

    IATA/ICAO code:
    EK/WATER

    Airline type:
    Full service carrier

    Hub(s):
    Dubai International Airport

    Year of foundation:
    1985

    CEO:
    Ahmed bin Said Al Maktoum

    Country:
    United Arab Emirates
  • heathrow_17581988126223
    London Heathrow Airport

    IATA/ICAO code:
    LHR-EGLL

    Country:
    UK

    CEO:
    John Holland Kaye

    Number of passengers :
    19392178 (2021)

    Tracks :
    09L/27R – 3,902 m (12,802 ft) |09R/27L – 3,660 m (12,008 ft)

    Terminals:
    Terminal 2 | Terminal 3 | Terminal 4 | Terminal 5

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