Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.


Saudi Snaps Up 10% Ownership of London Heathrow Airport

3 months ago

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund will acquire a 10% stake in Heathrow Airport, the busiest airport in Europe. Saudi is buying the share off of Ferrovial of Spain, while Paris-based Ardian will acquire 15 percent in a deal worth £2.37 billion ($3 billion) The deal is being made by the Public Investment Fund, known as PIF, which is chaired by the kingdom’s crown prince.

Ferrovial has owned its stake since 2006. The new deal is still subject to regulatory conditions

Heathrow’s parent company TGP Topco has various different owners, including other sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East. Here’s what the ownership looks like:

  • Qatar Investment Authority: 20%
  • Ardian: 15%
  • Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec: 13%
  • GIC: 11%
  • Australian Retirement Trust: 11%
  • PIF: 10%
  • China Investment Corporation: 10%
  • Universities Superannuation Scheme: 10%

Heathrow regained its top spot as the busiest airport in western Europe last year, after sliding down the rankings during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of passengers at the London airport has been on the rise. Between January and the end of September, Heathrow’s terminals saw 59.4 million passengers, an increase from 44.2 million during the same period in 2022.

This year, the airport has been experiencing financial losses due to substantial debt, influenced by sharp increases in borrowing costs. Losses in the first nine months of this year were £19 million (approximately $24.1 million), down from £442 million (approximately $561.5 million) in the same period in 2022.

The airport still has more than £14 billion (approximately $17.7 billion) in debt.


London Heathrow Airport CEO to Depart After 9 Years

1 year ago

The CEO of London’s Heathrow Airport, John Holland-Kaye, will step down from his post later this year the airport announced Thursday. His departure comes after nine years at the helm of the UK’s busiest airport.

Heathrow Terminal 5 interior
The Terminal 5 departures area at London’s Heathrow Airport. (Skift)

Holland-Kaye’s departure comes after a chaotic rebound in travel from the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, Heathrow was forced to implement flight caps during the peak summer travel season that were largely attributed to understaffing. While the situation eased in the fall, blame was largely placed on the airport for not hiring enough in advance of what many forecast to be a robust summer season.

However, prior to the Covid pandemic, Holland-Kaye is credited with successfully navigating Heathrow’s long-term expansion plan through various political and legal challenges to approval. The $17 billion (£14 billion) plan includes a third runway, as well as terminal and other facility expansions. And, while approved before the crisis, most airports have found it necessary to move forward with pre-pandemic expansion plans amid the robust return of travelers.

Holland-Kaye will stay on as CEO of Heathrow until a successor is appointed, the airport said.


Heathrow Airport Gets Caught Up in Another Storm

2 years ago

Airports can do no right at the moment, caught between passengers baying for blood and airlines that just want to fly people.

On Friday Frankfurt Airport became the latest hub to cut flights in a bid to ease delays and cancellations.

But London’s Heathrow, which is the UK’s biggest airport, is under fire for taking action it hopes will improve operations.

As Emirates rejects its passenger cap, one UK-based association has called Heathrow’s plan an “outrage.”

“The Heathrow passenger cap is an outrage for business and leisure travelers,” said Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association. “The arbitrary daily passenger number has been selected done without consultation with airlines and the wider travel community. This is a betrayal of all UK travelers, leaving airlines, travel management companies and travel agents to pick up the pieces.”

He called for Heathrow to be more “transparent about their problems.”

Two UK government bodies, the Department for Transport and Civil Aviation Authority, have also requested John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow’s CEO, provides a “credible” recovery plan to get the airport back to business, according to reports.

Meanwhile, the Global Business Travel Association is putting pressure on the European Commission to address staff shortages.

It argued “business travel momentum” was being threatened because the current six-week background checks required for employees working at airports and in the airline sector was causing a bottleneck. 

“Staff shortages are having a significant impact on travel programs and are threatening to affect the speed and trajectory of recovery of the business travel industry,” said Catherine Logan, regional vice president, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “The Global Business Travel Association is calling on the European Commission to prioritize and expedite the needed safety background checks to help alleviate the pressure at airports.”

The UK has already accelerated national security checks for new airport employees, but will that be enough for Heathrow? Passenger numbers are set to soar in a couple of weeks when families begin their summer vacations, which could compound an already complex situation.


UK Speeds Up Security Checks for New Airport Workers Amid Staffing Shortages

2 years ago

The UK government is accelerating national security checks for new airport employees to tackle staffing shortages that have contributed to a chaotic summer for travelers in the country and throughout Europe.

The country has sped up the vetting process all new aviation recruits must undergo, with accreditation checks being completed on average within five days and counter-terrorist checks taking less than 10 days — half of the average in March, according to the Department of Transport.

A common scene at airports this summer (Courtesy: Mark Hodson Photos/Flickr)

Staffing shortages have driven London’s Gatwick and Heathrow Airports to limit the flights the number during the summer travel season to avoid overcrowding. In addition, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has told airlines to stop selling tickets for flights they cannot staff.