Heathrow CEO’s alternate view of reality
Up until this year, I have always been a massive fan of Heathrow. It always felt that bit better than other airports with fancy shops and a good selection of interesting places to dine. However, since the return of travel and the unpredictability of the airport, I’m afraid to say I have fallen out of love with it. Yes, some of the problems are airline-related such as baggage handling and operating stands. But there is definitely a lot more Heathrow could be doing in terms of security queues, ensuring consistency between staff and equipment at terminals and most importantly opening Fast Track lanes in transfers (this is still rarely open at T5 and transfer security seems to be permanently a bad experience). Even things like investing in the customer experience like somewhere to sit in the Uber waiting area at each terminal would be welcome.
So I was surprised to read in an article by John Holland-Kaye in The Telegraph this weekend how he views the airport. The article is an obvious attempt to argue for increased passenger charges which are currently being negotiated with the CAA and a charge that airlines are not happy about.
He starts by boasting how it only takes him 5 minutes to get through security to having a coffee airside. I can’t actually think of a single time I have managed this recently even using the First Wing. My average is around 15 minutes in the Fast Track queue alone and these are at quieter times.
John says, “Today, Britain has a world-class hub that passengers rank as one of the best in the world….Heathrow is good value for both passengers and airlines….Far from decline, this is Britain at its best.”
Maybe that may have been true in 2019, I’m not so sure that is the case now. Though given the current state of the country, there’s a low bar for Britain at its best right now!
Despite claiming that they were fully staffed early in the year he also says that he expects it to take until the end of 2023 until the airport is fully staffed. But it is not clear whether he means Heathrow’s directly employed staff or all the staff that work at Heathrow. Apparently, the airport is currently at 85% staffing. I also thought the phrase that “At Heathrow alone, over 25,000 people left their jobs” was not quite the whole story given that most of those were made redundant or fired by their employers!
Well, one thing is for certain, if Mr Holland Kaye ever gets fired he could easily have a career in PR!
What is your experience of Heathrow recently? Do you agree with John? Let us know in the comments below.
BA’s new look livery for B777
BA has used the oneworld livery before on its B747s but it had died with the sad scrapping of the jumbos. Now it has emerged that BA has repainted one of its existing B777-200 with the same livery. The aircraft was revealed yesterday, but it looks rather odd. As a friend described it, it looks a bit “squished”. I wonder if they tried to use the same template for the B747 and it doesn’t quite fit!
As reported, British Airways have painted their first 777-200ER into a oneworld livery 🎨
G-YMMR is the first BA aircraft in the livery since the iconic 747 ✈️
What do you think?
Pic from Adrian Kissane 📸#aviation #britishairways pic.twitter.com/b5PP1ADUHq
— To Fly, To Travel (by Callum Mc) (@tofly_totravel) December 19, 2022
I’m not a fan personally, it looks out of proportion which is a shame.
BA changes for 2023
British Airways has revealed some major changes for 2023 as follows:
- BA CityFlyer are suspending
- London City to Guernsey (there are no flights with BA to Guernsey from London at all now)
- London City to Santorini
- Heathrow Terminal moves:
- T3 to T5: Brindisi, Faro, Lyon, Madrid, Naples, Porto, Pisa, Tirana
- T5 to T3: Figari, Ljubljana, Luxembourg, Perugia, Stuttgart
- Heathrow to Marrakesh will now be year-round
- New Heathrow to Paphos route in Summer 2023 weekly on a Saturday
- Southampton to Mykonos suspended
HT: To fly, to travel on Twitter
He has obviously never used Singapore or Hong Kong they knock Heathrow intonations a cocked hat for efficiency which is what most passengers want
No, I do not agree with John, I agree with you Michele. Heathrow is disappointing. They get away with it because the alternatives are worse. And yes, I understand not all the problems are under the control of the airport management, but to pretend that they don’t exist is not very honest.
Heathrow is more than disappointing, it’s an embarrassment, how JHK is still in a job is difficult to understand. One hour 15 minutes on my last trip through T5 fast track, I sent an a mail complaining to both him and the CAA, needless to say no reply yet, nor expecting one tbh.
I’ve had more dreadful than positive experience of Heathrow this year and have come to the conclusion that Holland-Kaye is also someone who believes Brexit is working.
At the worst, I waited 50 minutes to pass through the egates and then three hours for a bag, at best, I didn’t stop walking at the egates and my bag was on the carousel when I got there. The latter happened once just a few weeks ago, the other happened in September and was more of the expectation I have developed.
Holland-Kaye has been very keen to blame the airlines and ground handlers but he ultimately lets these companies offer their services and there must be contractual arrangements with Heathrow to allow them to operate. Surely it’s in the best interests of the airport to get bags out at speed to clear departing aircraft?
Most of my departures have been morning ones, either first or second round, first round has been OK, second less so. The fewer I’ve had later in the day have often been sixty to ninety minutes late and waitiing for a stand inbound has often been the reason given on boarding.
Outbound security, I’ve had ONE good fast track experience where I passed through in ten minutes – compare that to about two as a norm in Helsinki these days which includes a bag check. I’ve also set off the arch in security on every occasion I’ve passed through this year but never have anywhere else. The waits, particularly in the morning when in T2 they choose not to open Gold Track at any regular time but only ‘when staffing levels permit’ have been anything up to an hour. It’s just a bad joke.
I’m getting tempted to send Holland-Kaye a bill for my time wasted. I’ll bet though he gets yet another totally inappropriate, huge bonus for this year.
Heathrow is a better story than most UK airports, with T5 and the rebuilt T2. Many other UK airports remain stuck in the 1980s or earlier, the mostly pre-fab East Midlands being fairly typical of provincial airports and an embarrassment when set against continental equivalents
There are some that are decent. Southampton is a favourite of mine. I found Bristol ok. Manchester the less said the better….
LHR, or T5 anyway, is fine. I aver that the Border Force is the bottleneck.
4 times this year ive had to wait 45+ minutes after landing at T5 for either a stand or the parking assist to be turned on, or both. Last month I complained to BA and got 10000 avios for my trouble and they actually admitted that they could understand why i had complained!
Hopefully Friday will be better- but I won’t hold my breath!
Last 2 times through T5 the fast track queue has been so long that we’ve gone through the normal queue.
Yes my Fast track experience was not good recently.
Security at Heathrow Terminal 3, both Fast Track and normal, has often been backed up with very long lines this month — and that’s Holland-Kaye’s responsibility. And if you read flyertalk, you’ll see that First Wing security at Terminal 5, supposedly the very best Heathrow has to offer and also Holland-Kaye’s responsibilty, is often a mess these days as well. My conclusion is that Holland-Kaye is not a frequent flyer but instead is a not-very-nice word that rhymes with flyer.
Heathrow is an embarrassment. T2 is nothing short of a bloody shambles. We queued for nearly 2 hours just to check in, with the queue snaking round the whole terminal. Security was even worse with queue jumping and nobody seeming to be in charge. We arrived at T2 3 hours before our flight and only just made it with 10 minutes to spare. Luckily EuroWings held the flight for the poor devils behind us. All we’re out of breath and sweating profusely.
John is living in cloud cuckoo land if he thinks it takes 5 minutes. He is obviously deluding himself to justify his huge salary and utter mess he is presiding over. It was one of the most stressful experiences I have ever had when travelling.
We have just got home having arrived at T5. The poor devils trying to catch connecting flights must have thought they’d landed in some 3rd world hub airport, it was utter chaos. Even worse than our experience at T2!
Heathrow is a joke and we’re flying from there again in January from T3 with Emirates. Sadly, I’m not looking forward to it, when I should be excited
Four day trip to Singapore three weeks ago. T5 First Class lounge, South Terraces utterly swamped (no delays causing backlog) just way too many people. Forced to retreat upstairs to Silver which wasn’t much better!
Flights and crew pretty good.
Return transfer through security and immigration and onto internal flight UTTERLY APPALLING ! No fast track, took an hour to transit T5 international to domestic. Not doing again at 5.00am, will fly with another carrier, and not via Heathrow..
Excellent article. Hé and the Heathrow Board should be ashamed of themselves. But with Schiphol being a disaster, they falsely believe they are doing something right. We went to Paris via Eurostar last week, even though Heathrow would have been quicker for us, precisely to avoid going through Heathrow right now.
The travel industry are gouging consumers since the pandemic with the aim of recouping lost revenue and profits. They have not reinvested appropriately in the customer experience and nowhere is this more obvious than Heathrow and BA. It is time the pandemic excuses ended and it was recognised as at best cynical and at worst incompetent management. If I were a Heathrow Board member I would look to CSAT scores as a major factor when deciding JHK’s bonus because those indicate long term prospects far more than anything else.
Good article. He’s delusional. What fast track? Paying big bucks to travel BA FIRST or Club and being stuck in hideously long hot lines to move upstairs at T5 to catch flights to GLA have become the norm. That. Is. A. Disgrace.
I am also not satisfied with service at LHR T5 this year. Once this summer I used the North fast track. You have a long tunnel after the gates and then you see the queues for security. But this instance there wasn’t a separate security line for fast track rather you had to join to the normal queue. I went back to the staff at the gates asking why this fast track is open and letting people in when there is no fast track security line… Her response was she doesn’t see what’s in the security… Okay so I’m telling you now, maybe do something about it, like warn people that they might wanna use South fast track… She couldn’t be bothered at all. Not a good customer service experience.
During the pandemic some airline and airport bosses made spectacularly bad decisions that continue to impact on the paying customer. I’d have some respect for them if they admitted they got things wrong, and concentrated on improving the experience, rather then constantly trying to blame everyone but themselves.
Time to ship up or ship out!
* rather than…..*
I really shouldn’t be posting comments without my glasses on!!! 🙄
Of course it’s ‘Shape up or Ship out’
Reading into the problems and observing them (I fly regularly from LHR) and taking time to talk calmly to the customer facing staff ( when time permits) ….I hate using the word moral, but it’s bouncing off the floor. Employees out sourced or direct with LHR, have had enough. Not because of terms and conditions, but the way management just don’t care about them. Some go above and beyond, but then get called to a meeting with their line manager over something totally trivial and bang goes the enthusiasm. This feeds down and reaches union reps, who then impose go slow policies. I know some of them don’t help themselves and I have observed that, but lack of support and everything has put LHR where it is now.
So, when travelling through LHR and of course time permits, have a natter not a rant at the employees. You will be surprised as to what you will learn.
Pretty sure none of us are ranting at the employees. We all know it’s a thankless task and poorly paid.
However deliberately doing a go slow is not going to help their cause! And unofficial industrial action is illegal.
When recruiting and keeping staff is an issue you’d think any half way intelligent management would make an effort to try and motivate and value their staff.
I dread flying in or out of Heathrow. The Telegraph piece was an opportunity for Mr Holland-Kaye to hold his hands up and be honest about lessons learned and challenges ahead, and start earning some respect from his customers, but he chose to continue b**********g in the hope no one will notice his abject failure.
Management of LHR, both airport and airline management, has been shocking throughout this year even when we rightly allow for all the pressures of Covid, Brexit and post-Covid.
Even aside from this, his 5 mins check in to coffee airside comment is complete rubbish. I’m very fortunate to be BA GGL so use FastTrack all the time and even in off peak times it never takes 5 minutes, always more – it’s just physically not possible.
So this is the worst of leadership traits – mismanaging a problem then having the outrageous audacity to say you can fast track in 5 mins from check in to coffee airside, everything is good, and of course when its bad then its everybody else’s fault. Time for the Board and Management to call this out.
I dread flying back through Heathrow but I dont have a lot of option with Aberdeen as the connector.
Very rarely are there more than 50% of the security checks manned and open and the attitude of the staff toward people is also terrible. Remember its our charges that pay the wages. I’m sorry but there is a complete lack of care and attention – “this is just a job” attitude is very evident at Heathrow.
Funnily enough though… there always appears to be “managers” standing around with paperwork looking like wet blankets when you do get through security.
Fastrack was anything but fast on every single occasion I’ve flown this year. The queue at T5 last Saturday went from the entry gate and wrapped around the entrance to the checkin area. It was taking so long to get people through, staff were calling people out of the line who would miss their flights. The flight before this one, the scanning machine at security broke down, the flight before the conveyor belt into the scanner broke.
Other areas of complaint – £5 drop off fee, short stay and long stay car parking charges are eye watering, baggage wait times, flight delays.
This gentleman is really selling a great story if he thinks Heathrow is a world class airport that brings credit to Britain.
Just arrived this afternoon in NYC after a T3 departure on American Airlines.
Passport control at JFK was more than an hour but luggage was waiting.
T3 fast track security this a.m. was not bad considering the crowds and we passed through without any real delay around 08.45., with polite service.
A.A. club class not to be recommended. Food & wines both disappointing, service although brusque, but not bad. Seats not really comfortable, old aircraft – old cabin. BA club is a superior product but “brandy gate” continues with not a drop available, even though the purser thought they had some in First!! Had to make do with the 2016 LBV port………..
Hi Michelle, I agree with you and the majority of your other readers about the state of Heathrow’s woeful service. It all stems from very poor quality leadership as borne out in the delusional and non self aware JHK. His assessment explains why we all get the poor service and experiences. He clearly doesn’t understand the gaps to our expectations or how to close those gaps. I very much doubt unless he changes his approach that he and his team will ever slow down staff attrition and improve staff recruitment. Good people only want to work for a stay with good leaders, there are great employment choices these days and that isn’t going to change any time soon.
I find Heathrow to be permanently dirty. When we were at Dubai airport there was someone cleaning the ceiling, same in NYC at the new part of Penn Station. We flew to NYC on 15/12/22, security and check in were shocking and took so long we only just made it to the gate with time to get a coffee before boarding, no time to look at duty free and any of the other fancy shops. There are never enough clean toilets which is embarrassing for a supposed leading airline. The CEO should travel to some of the other airports in the world and take note of cleanliness, how helpful staff are and the service offered. We used to use BA all the time if possible, but will now be investigating other alternatives where possible.
Fast Track is still closed because of the COVID-19 situation, according to their website. What time warp are they in?
Fast track is open except for transfers where it only opens occasionally. I agree. Its completely ridiculous at this point.
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