Expanding Capacity at Heathrow Airport: Designing a Campaign from a Stakeholder Perspective

Caroline Louring-Andersen & Nina Scheler Vindel

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

Airport capacity in South East England is reaching its maximum, and is forecasted not to be able to accommodate the demand for future air passenger figures. In our globalised world, aviation is an important growth driver through accessibility of people and goods to other markets, and the British Government therefore sought to find a deliverable and effective solution to expand capacity, assessing the major airports in the region. This included examination of options to expand Heathrow Airport, the country’s largest airport and an important global aviation hub. In its decision, the government was obliged to balance claimed monetary benefits argued to derive from expansion against potential non-monetary costs, such as negative impacts on the climate and human rights. It thereby faced a troublesome dilemma.
This thesis examines how Heathrow Airport attempted to influence the government’s decision by adjusting its communications efforts to comply with the interests and dynamics of its stakeholders, while also complying with the climate targets and human rights acts the British Government has committed itself to, and at the same time being a driver for economic prosperity. In order to do this, identification of stakeholders and the salience of these, and an examination of the economic and societal macro factors believed to influence the process and the decision were investigated. The study highlights the complexity of these by identifying numerous essential stakeholders, demonstrating local communities to be strikingly salient, although the decision was to be made by the government. Additionally, it determines extensive uncertainties in the forecasted demand of passengers, from that pointing to uncertainties of the claimed benefits argued to derive from expansion. It also shows that Heathrow Airport risks to abuse the human rights of its neighbours, and how the risk of doing so can potentially hurt expansion and the airport’s business. Given the government’s commitments, it additionally points to how Heathrow Airport addressed these in its campaign, thereby strengthening the relation to its most salient stakeholders by actively incorporating their interests in its campaign’s communication and its planning proposals.
Based on the above, the study concludes that Heathrow Airport adapted its communications strategy to comply to its stakeholders’ interests in order to reduce opposition, and thereby consequentially affected the final outcome. In October 2016, the government decided to expand capacity at Heathrow Airport, stating that the airport is deliverable on air quality limits, as long as necessary mitigation measures are carried out. However, the government stresses that the airport must meet legal requirements on air quality in order for construction to begin. Heathrow Airport must therefore continue to convince the government that it is able to meet the requirements to obtain its planning approval. Finally, the study discusses potential changes to its results, had similar analysis been carried out by the government. It also discusses the effects the forthcoming Brexit might have on expansion, exhibiting that triggering Article 50 negotiations could impact free movement of people and agreements on trade, potentially harmful to the benefits of expansion, depending on the outcome of the anticipated negotiations with the EU, while it indicates further insecurities about future airport capacity demand.
Building an analytic framework that includes assessments of issues relevant to key stakeholders is critical, as it creates a frame in which the organisation can plan its campaign to achieve its business objectives by addressing these strategically and in timely manner, argued to thereby limit resistance and risks.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2017
Number of pages144
SupervisorsJan Michael Bauer & Karin Buhmann