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Airports operator BAA names two high-profile directors as it attempts to repair reputation

Airports operator BAA names two high-profile directors as it attempts to repair reputation

BAA PLC, the Spanish-owned airports operator facing harsh criticism for delays and overcrowding at Heathrow, announced the appointment of two high-profile directors on Friday in a bid to improve its poor public relations and performance.
The extent of those troubles was further underlined the same day when the company was ordered to pay back 146,000 pounds (US$295,000; euro215,000) to airlines that use Heathrow and Gatwick after missing key targets on delays set out by the Civil Aviation Authority in July.
Former Alliance Boots PLC Chairman Nigel Rudd was named the non-executive chairman of the company controlled by Grupo Ferrovial SA, while former Metropolitan Police Commissioner John Stevens was named a non-executive director.
Their appointments follow the departure of several senior executives at BAA since it was acquired by Ferrovial and a negative publicity blitz that has included London Mayor Ken Livingstone calling Heathrow a "shame" on London.
Around half the fine announced by the Aviation Authority was for delays in getting passengers through security at Gatwick, while the other half was for leaving passengers waiting on board planes after arriving at Heathrow's Terminal Four.
BAA said paying rebates after not meeting targets was "an infrequent occurrence."
"In fact July 2007 was Heathrow's best July ever, with 97 percent of passengers passing through our security in under 10 minutes," it said. "BAA is committed to improving Heathrow, and has invested in nine additional security lanes since Aug, 10 and 500 extra security staff."
However, the company's security chief Donal Dowds was the latest senior executive to walk out, announcing his departure on Thursday. Among the other executives to leave the company are Tony Douglas, chairman Marcus Agius, chief executive Mike Clasper, finance director Margaret Ewing, and director of corporate affairs Duncan Bonfield.
Along with customer complaints about long queues and overcrowding, the company is under considerable regulatory pressure over its dominant position in the market _ its airports handle around 90 percent of passenger flights made in southeast England and 63 percent of all flights to and from Britain.
The Competition Commission is considering whether to break up the group _ the regulator has the power to order BAA to sell off one or more of its airports, which include Gatwick and Stansted in London, and Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland.
Separately, the Aviation Authority is looking at reducing the return that BAA can make on running the airports.
In further bad news for the company this week, the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that its claims that passengers would pay the same price for goods at the airport shops and bars as they would at their local stores and bars were misleading.
The Authority said that BAA had compared its prices to London prices, which are higher than the average across the rest of the country.
BAA said the appointments of Stevens and Rudd are part of an ongoing program to ensure it has the expertise to improve the passenger experience at its seven British airports against a backdrop of regulatory investigations.
"BAA's No. 1 priority at the moment is to improve the experience of our passengers traveling through our airports," said BAA Chief Executive Stephen Nelson. "We have made significant headway in recent months and I am confident that the experience and talent that Sir Nigel and Lord Stevens will bring to the board will help accelerate this transformation."
The company has also appointed Stephen Baxter, who currently runs its three Scottish airports, to become the group's first chief operating officer with a remit to "bring about substantial improvements to our operational performance."


Updated : 2021-07-28 17:47 GMT+08:00