‘ACL – A Retrospective’, by former Chairman, Jeff Halliwell

Former Chairman, Jeff Halliwell, looks back on his time as Chair of ACL’s Board.


When the unfortunate departure of Monarch Airlines pulled Airport Coordination Limited (ACL) into the newspaper headlines in Autumn 2017, I was on a remote boat trip with my wife and largely uncontactable. To the puzzlement of some of my fellow passengers, I spent hours on deck searching for an internet connection so I could support management with the situation. The question arose whether Monarch’s administrators were entitled to the airlines previously held slots an issue without legal precedent. ACL’s eventual ruling was upheld in the High Court, but overturned on appeal; establishing a legal precedent which has been helpful since.  While the legal judgement ultimately went against ACL, it was generally recognised that ACL had carried out its remit of acting in an independent and objective manner, in a complex case, something which I am proud of.

It was nevertheless a very enjoyable boat trip!

I joined ACL as its first independent Chair in 2013. Since ACL is required under EU slots regulations to act in an independent manner, it was deemed that the new Chair should be demonstrably independent of any aviation interest. As a former CEO of major food businesses, I met that requirement. Of course, along with lack of aviation background, came a total lack of knowledge about aviation in general, and slots in particular! However, people were very patient and put up with my idiotic questions. I’ve also been conscious that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” and have hopefully been able to distinguish between executive and non-executive matters, and not to interfere in the former; a task made easier thanks to the help of our very able ACL senior execs.

ACL performs its duties both very effectively, and cost-efficiently. This has enabled it to grow to become the world’s leading independent slot coordinator.  Since 2012 turnover has increased by over 50%, and the number of airports coordinated outside the UK has more than doubled. And as well as helping improving capacity utilisation at some of the world’s largest and most constrained airports, ACL has facilitated the smooth operation of a number of major international events and has successfully supported some major airport reconfigurations.

By 2015, this growth exposed a clear need for focus on ACL’s international business and so ACL International Ltd was formed, a wholly owned subsidiary of ACL. This provided opportunity for a number of governance improvements and also encouraged the appointment of further directors who, like me, were free of prior aviation interests and could add to ACL’s already impressive breadth of board experience.

My job as Chair has been made immeasurably easier by the excellence of the executive teams I have worked with. Under its current CEO, Edmond Rose, ACL is well positioned to support the future of a sector which is currently in the middle of unprecedented challenges. When the world emerges from Covid-19, the industry will look very different, in ways which are today impossible to predict. However, airport slot coordination will continue to be a vital part of the efficient operation of aviation, and ACL has the ability, experience, and expertise to fully support that re-establishment.

When I started my term of office as Chair, I had no idea how enjoyable the next years would be. As ever, it’s the people you work with who make any role memorable, and I’ve been extremely lucky in working with, and learning from, some great colleagues. Now I’ve completed my lap, it’s time to hand the baton on to my very able successor, Lesley Cowley, a highly respected businesswoman who brings superb Chair and Non-Executive Director experience. I’ve no doubt that under her stewardship, ACL will reach even greater heights and make an even stronger contribution to international aviation.

It’s been a great personal and professional pleasure.


by Jeff Halliwell

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