UK airport operator BAA’s chief executive Stephen Nelson has resigned from his post in a management change which will see him replaced by former British Airways executive Colin Matthews.

Nelson’s resignation is the latest, but the most significant, in a series of high-profile executive departures since BAA was taken over by Spanish company Ferrovial in 2006.

Sources familiar with the situation confirm Nelson is stepping down on 1 April.

BAA has been struggling to rebuild public confidence following intense criticism of operations at London’s Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports.

The company has battled to cope with passenger congestion caused by increased security measures and, more recently, threats of industrial action, the fallout from serious equipment malfunctions and a breach of security by environmental protesters.

The operator is facing an inquiry from competition regulators who are examining whether the company should be broken up.

It has also been left having to deal with the departure of several senior figures since the acquisition by Ferrovial, including its previous chief executive, chairman, chief operating officer, finance director, and the chief of London Heathrow.

Last year Nelson admitted that passengers were having to tolerate unacceptable delays but insisted the company was determined to resolve the problems.

Nelson’s resignation comes just a month before Heathrow is due to open its new Terminal 5. He is being replaced by Colin Matthews, who was British Airways’ director of technical operations before leaving in September 2001 to join the utilities industry. Until last year he headed the UK water-supply company Severn Trent.

Source:'s sister premium news site Air Transport Intelligence news