DfT post of Director General for Aviation advertised – panel of 6 to select, includes John Holland-Kaye

The role of Director General for Aviation, Maritime and Security at the DfT is currently being advertised, at a salary of about £130,000. Applications can be submitted until 28th February. The previous incumbent was Gareth Davis, who was replaced by an interim director, Dr Rannia Leontaridi, in January 2022. There will be a panel of 6 people to select the new director; 5 of the 6 are civil servants. But the Telegraph has reported that the 6th person is John Holland-Kaye, the CEO of Heathrow airport. Details of the panel, how John Holland-Kaye could be on it, and the proper process of selecting the applicant for one of the most influential roles in aviation in the UK, are still unclear.  It is hoped that this will be clarified soon.  Airlines are reported to be unhappy about John’s choice to be on the panel, and the possibility of undue influence.


Airlines’ fury as Heathrow helps pick Britain’s senior aviation chief

Civil service impartiality questioned as airport boss joins hiring panel

The head of Heathrow Airport is to help choose Britain’s most senior aviation official in a move that has sparked anger from airline executives. [The role is the Director General for Aviation, Maritime and Security at the DfT].

Amid a bitter dispute over fees at Britain’s busiest airport, it can be disclosed that John Holland-Kaye is to join a six-person panel to select the director general of aviation. The other members are all Whitehall officials.

Airlines questioned the impartiality of the civil service in the wake of Mr Holland-Kaye’s appointment.

A senior industry source said: “Aviation is supposed to be a competitive industry so it beggars belief that the chief executive of the UK’s biggest airport, which has to be tightly regulated to stop it abusing its monopoly position, is directly involved in the appointment of a senior government official with responsibility for the sector.

“Whether any bias is real or just perceived, it will cast shade on any future Government decisions involving Heathrow.”

Mr Holland-Kaye has clashed with airlines over his demand for a 90pc increase in landing charges at Heathrow.

The airport continues to campaign against a decision by the regulator the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to grant an inflation-busting 37pc rise instead.

Although the CAA has no government funding, it is considered a public organisation and officials could be expected to intervene in contentious issues.

It is understood that airlines have bombarded Department for Transport officials over the last week to voice their concerns about Mr Holland-Kaye’s place on the panel. Another insider said: “They have certainly made their feelings known.”

Nigel Wicking, chief executive of the Heathrow Airline Operating Committee – which represents carriers operating out of the airport and has a confrontational relationship with its management – said he was “very disappointed” to see Mr Holland-Kaye named on the panel.

He added: “We note and support the Civil Service values of ‘impartiality, objectivity, integrity and honesty’ and would question how the panel can be impartial when it contains the chief executive of Heathrow Airport, the regulated monopoly that the new director general will oversee.”

A spokesman for the Government said: “This appointment is chaired by a Civil Service commissioner, going through a fair and open process and senior external figures can be involved to offer outside expertise. We will keep the recruitment process under constant review to ensure it is representative of views, including those of airlines.”



Fury over airport boss in Whitehall job search

By Callum Jones (The Times)
Monday February 14 2022

Airlines are unhappy that John Holland-Kaye is involved in the quest for a civil servant in charge of the nation’s aviation sector

The Department for Transport has insisted that it is conducting a “fair and open” search for Britain’s top aviation official after airlines expressed frustration at the role played by the boss of Heathrow.

Whitehall officials defended the inclusion of John Holland-Kaye, the airport’s chief executive, on a panel at the heart of the recruitment process for the department’s next director-general for aviation.

Contributions from such figures can provide additional expertise, it was claimed this weekend. The panel’s other five members are civil servants.

Holland-Kaye’s involvement has annoyed airline executives, according to The Sunday Telegraph, which said that industry figures had raised their concerns with the government amid disbelief over his role in the selection.

Carriers have endured a fractious relationship with Holland-Kaye, 57, as Heathrow pushed for a hefty increase in what it is permitted to charge them to use the airport. These charges typically generate most of its annual revenue.

The Civil Aviation Authority has permitted a 37 per cent rise, although Heathrow has claimed this decision risks leaving it “without sufficient cashflow to support investment in improving passenger service and resilience”.

With a final decision expected in the spring, tensions are unlikely to ease over the coming months.

The Heathrow Airline Operating Committee, which speaks for carriers that use the airport, expressed disappointment that Holland-Kaye was involved in the search for a senior government official. Nigel Wicking, the committee’s chief executive, raised the prospect of a big conflict of interest.

He wanted to know “how the panel can be impartial when it contains the chief executive of Heathrow, the regulated monopoly that the new director general will oversee”.

The Department of Transport said: “We will keep the recruitment process under constant review to ensure it is representative of views, including those of airlines.”

Heathrow declined to comment.



Gareth Davis was in the role until January 2022


Gareth Davies has been Second Permanent Secretary of the Department for Transport since January 2022. His responsibilities include decarbonising transport, technology, international and security.

Prior to this, Gareth was a Director General in the department. He has also been Director General in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. There he was responsible for securing business investment, managing distressed corporate situations and £9 billion in public funding for science and research.

Earlier in his career he has led the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit and has been a Private Secretary in Downing Street. He started his career in PricewaterhouseCoopers and has worked for AIA, the life insurance company based in Hong Kong.

Interim Director General Aviation, Maritime and Security
Dr Rannia Leontaridi OBE FRSA

Government website

Dr Rannia Leontaridi was appointed Interim Director General, Aviation, Maritime and Security Group in the Department for Transport (DfT) in January 2022.

Previously, Rannia was Director for Aviation in DfT. She was responsible for the COVID-19 International Travel response, an ambitious aviation decarbonisation agenda, aviation safety and security and global leadership in international aviation organisations.

Before entering the Civil Service, Rannia worked as a lecturer in Economics. She has a wealth of experience in policy, strategy and commercial roles and has led teams across the UK government. Her previous roles include director for business growth, leading the government’s policy on entrepreneurs, small businesses and new emerging high growth and technology businesses. She was the first director of the UK’s Office for Artificial Intelligence (OAI).

Rannia also led the development of more than 100 employee-owned private sector businesses and was the co-founder and UK Government Director at Crown Hosting Data Centres, a joint venture between the UK government and Ark Data Centres.

Rannia is the gender champion for DfT and the senior sponsor for Diversity and Inclusion for the Analysis Profession in the Civil Service.

She received an OBE for public service in 2016 and is a Carnegie Scholar in Economics and a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts.

Interim Director General Aviation, Maritime and Security – The main areas of responsibility are:

ensuring that the development of a post-pandemic international travel system supports the UK global ambitions
aviation policy including airports, environment, consumer protection, security and safety
maritime policy including infrastructure, environment, security and trade
space launch
security and safety of the transport network
global leadership in international aviation, as the UK Director General for Civil Aviation, including for the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), G7 and Eurocontrol
international negotiations with other governments and international transport organisations
sponsorship of arm’s length bodies including the CAA, Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Accident Investigation Branches.

Department for Transport