The head of under-fire airport operating company BAA is to be replaced after less than two years in the job by a former Severn Trent boss, it was announced yesterday.
BAA, which has faced fierce criticism over its running of Heathrow airport, said chief executive Stephen Nelson would step down at the end of next month.
From April 1, the new BAA chief executive will be one-time British Airways technical operations director Colin Matthews who until last autumn was the chief executive of Birmingham-based water utility Severn Trent.
During his time in the post Mr Matthews made radical changes to Severn Trent's operational structure.
Mr Nelson was appointed in July 2006 and almost immediately had to deal with the strict new baggage rules introduced at UK airports in August 2006 following a thwarted terrorist attack on planes.
Security and baggage problems have dogged his tenure at BAA, which runs seven UK airports including Gatwick and Stansted.
Only last week, a computer problem led to British Airways being unable to allow long-haul passengers to take hold luggage on planes leaving Heathrow's Terminal 4.
Figures released by the Association of European Airlines last week also showed passengers at Heathrow and Gatwick - another BAA-run airport - suffered the worst flight delays among all leading European airports.
BAA's ownership of airports, which includes Stansted, is now the subject of a Competition Commission inquiry, with some parties calling for a break-up of the company's London airport-owning monopoly.
Mr Nelson will stay in his job long enough to see the opening of the £4.3 million new Terminal 5 at Heathrow at the end of next month.
But Mr Matthews will be put under immediate pressure by Sir Richard Branson's airline, Virgin Atlantic, which said: "We welcome the appointment of Colin Matthews, a knowledgeable industry player.
"His experience will help BAA to understand that passengers want to pass through an airport as quickly as possible and not be forced to trudge through a myriad of shopping outlets.
"Against the backdrop of T5's opening, we will be watching Colin Matthews' strategic approach to ensure that his background does not lead to further favouritism towards British Airways."