Strategy with stakeholders – challenges and opportunities for airports
People often think of airports as stand-alone companies. We own and build the runways, terminals and other infrastructure on the ground. Yet in reality we only succeed through a network of many stakeholders, each of whom influence our airport strategy. Heathrow only employs 6,000 of the nearly 80,000 people who work at the airport. As Europe’s, and one of the world’s leading hubs, we can only succeed when stakeholders as diverse as commercial airlines, air traffic control, ground handlers, UK border officials, international regulators and retail partners, to name a few, can see an overall plan for the airport and are working hard to make it happen every day.
The key to success is deep integration with every single stakeholder.
I believe that this trend will intensify in the next 5 -10 years for airports. At Heathrow we opened the new Terminal 2 this year, after years of close work with the STAR alliance and other partners to design and operate it in the optimal way. Building on these lessons of strategic collaboration we have also just launched our combined Airport Operations Centre – making physical reality of a strategy to integrate not just operations but planning future developments with Heathrow’s key stakeholders. We see approaches like this – not just collaboration but deep integration – as having huge potential opportunities to improve how a hub airport can work.
Stakeholders are not just within the industry. Heathrow’s great challenge is capacity – our two runways are the busiest in the world and are full. We need to expand. The business case for the UK, and for Heathrow, is compelling. But we cannot achieve the support to proceed alone. We need wider business, Trade Unions and the political community to support us. Crucially we need to engage with local residents to a degree we have never done before. That means partnerships with local government and far deeper involvement with local communities in defining where we are going and how we operate. So here too we see the trend of airports setting their strategy in negotiation, cooperation and integrating with other stakeholders.
I would urge all those who work with and in airports to think through how such a lens alters the solutions we might need, and the ways in which we might seek to define them. Those who make the most of this trend will help to create the great airports of the future.
Chief Operating Officer