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Royal Mail turns to Heathrow Airport for new chief executive

Royal Mail has poached Heathrow Airport’s chief operating officer to become its new boss in a new role created by parent company International Distribution Services’ chief Martin Seidenberg.

Emma Gilthorpe, Heathrow’s COO since 2020, will take over at the postal group in May.

It is the first time the two arms of the business will have their own chief executives since its name changed from Royal Mail in 2022 and IDS became the holding company.

European parcels business GLS, the other part of IDS, is run by Karl Pfaff.

Gilthorpe has worked at Heathrow since 2009 having held roles in strategy, regulation and sustainability and overseeing the airport’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Royal Mail said it had been impressed by Gilthorpe’s handling of “large, complex and high-profile regulated infrastructure businesses”.

Seidenberg commented: “Gilthorpe has an impressive track record of delivering major strategic change programmes while driving up performance”.

Gilthorpe commented: “Royal Mail is a great British brand with a long and proud history. Now is the time to ensure it has a successful future, too, working in partnership with our employees, customers and all our stakeholders to continue to modernise Royal Mail and deliver the high standards of service our customers rightly expect.”

The former Heathrow executive joins as the postal service is trying to recover from big losses and prolonged industrial action while fighting off growing competition and a steady fall in the b number of letters being sent.

In response, Royal Mail is trying to get its delivery day obligation (USO) cut with industry responses to the plan due by tomorrow.

The cost of stamps also rose today to £1.35 for first class and 85p for second, a fourth rise in two years.

Gilthorpe’s pay will not be released, said Royal Mail, as she will not sit on the listed business’s board.

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