Heathrow Airport Terminal 1 Case Study

Colorado State Patrol

The goal: Coordinate law enforcement services with the Denver Police Department, the Secret Service, and other agencies for the Democratic National Convention on a $1.6 million budget.

The problem: The project manager, Korby Johnson, had a core planning team of just three people (including herself), more than 500 people to mobilize, and only seven months to prepare — half the time that’s usually required for a project of that scale. To complicate matters further, says Johnson, “I wasn’t prepared for the politics.” The Colorado State Patrol troopers made it clear when she arrived that they didn’t think they needed a project manager.

What happened: For the first three months, the troopers pushed back when Johnson tried to work with them. After she and her team assessed who would go to the DNC and who would provide coverage elsewhere, Johnson asked each office to submit operational plans. Then she waited. For officers who are used to responding quickly to emergencies, a seven-month planning timeline seemed like overkill. Many of them simply ignored the deadlines Johnson set. “They had 75 years of tradition doing projects their way,” she says. “They were insulted when I showed up with a different approach.”

Johnson knew she would never be able to get the troopers to work with complex project management software, but she still needed a way to track progress and hold the troopers accountable to deadlines. She finally developed a simple, shared spreadsheet to keep track of everyone’s tasks and deadlines. As a deadline approached, the trooper’s name turned yellow; if the date passed, the name turned bright red. You could even sort by name to find repeat offenders. The system worked, because everyone could see everyone else’s status and the highly competitive troopers turned it into a game that no one wanted to lose. In the end, Johnson had to write a few of the action plans herself, but that has its advantages, too: “You can do things your way if you put in the extra work,” she says. The final planning document topped 600 pages, but now it serves as the Colorado State Patrol’s model for project management.

Chapter 3 – Background: The Players

British Airport Authorities Ltd.

Lead by CEO Colin Matthews, BAA owns and operates six British airports, including London’s Heathrow Airport, making it one of the world’s largest transportation companies, generating over GBP 2.5 Billion per year.  The company is wholly owned by the international consortium ADI Ltd, led by the Spanish infrastructure company the Ferrovial Group and is headquartered on the grounds of London Heathrow Airport.  Formed in 1966 by federal mandate, BAA was originally a state-run organization.  It was privatized in 1986 and publically traded until July 2006 when ADI paid over GBP 10 Billion for ownership and the company was delisted.  Also during this time, the company was renamed from the British Airports Authority plc to BAA Ltd.

The largest source of revenue for most airports is airline landing fees based on a per-seat pricing basis.  This means the more passengers an airline brings to the airport, the more fees they pay.  It is, therefore, within BAA’s interest to facilitate as many passengers traversing its airports (including Heathrow) as possible. 

London Heathrow Airport

London Heathrow Airport (Heathrow) is the largest and busiest airport in the United Kingdom (UK) and second busiest airport in the world with respect to total passenger traffic.  Heathrow handles more international passengers that any other airport in the world and has the most passenger traffic in the European Union (EU).    With a history spanning back to the 1930s, Heathrow currently services almost a half-million planes annually and facilitates over 65 million passengers through 90 airlines across 4 strained terminals. Heathrow’s primary regional completion for the most profitable transatlantic traffic is Paris’ Charles De Gaulle Airport, owned by a different consortium.   Capacity has typically been a concern, limiting airlines from bringing in more passenger traffic and in turn limiting revenue.

Heathrow is the primary hub for three airlines including BA, British Midland International, and Virgin Atlantic Airways.

London Heathrow Terminal Five

Planned to be opened in March of 2008, T5 was to be the largest free standing structure in the UK, capable of handling 35 million passengers annually.  The subject of the longest planning inquiry in British history, T5 took 19 years from inception to completion with actual construction lasting almost 6 years.  The terminal would become BA’s central hub for all international flights with a plan to move 70% of BA flights at other terminals to T5 on opening day; the remaining 30% was to be moved over within weeks of opening day.  By transferring BA, representing 40% of the routes and traffic to T5, Heathrow’s capacity for, as well as revenues generated from, the other 90 airlines would increase as well.  These properties would be transferred as quickly as feasible to generate the highest rents possible.  Heathrow and BAA were strongly anticipating the opening of T5 to alleviate that congestion and help facilitate growth. Nearing the completion of T5, it became evident that additional capacity may be necessary and plans for a sixth terminal were finalized.

The opening of T5 was to be the panacea to the much maligned congestion from which Heathrow was suffering.  Its highly anticipated opening was celebrated nationwide with the being invited Queen to make an appearance in mid-March to officially open the Terminal.

British Airways

BA was a nationalized airline established by consolidating two large and two smaller airlines in 1974.  In 1987 the company was privatized and expanded rapidly through acquisitions. During the 1990s, during a highly competitive market, BA became the most profitable airline in the world. By 2007, BA had a large fleet of over 248 planes, consisting of very large capacity carriers such as Boeing 787s and 747-400s.  Using this fleet, in 2008, BA carried over 35.7 million passengers to over 150 destinations; making it the second most popular UK airline generating over GBP 8 Billion in revenue

BA has a reputation of dominating Heathrow airport, earning it the nomenclature “Fortress Heathrow” within both the airline and industry.  Obtained through both grandfathering clauses and purchasing of routes, BA own over 40% of the landing and taking off flights slots at Heathrow.  In September 2005, Willie Walsh, former CEO of Aer Lingus, took the CEO position at BA.

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