Comms help for BAA probe

Former Maitland Consultancy partner Colin Browne is to provide PR support to the inquiry into last month's controversial closure of Heathrow airport.

Browne has been brought on board by professor David Begg, the BAA non-executive director leading the independent inquiry into the company's handling of the chaos, which saw Heathrow closed for four days in the run-up to Christmas.

Browne, who has his own consultancy, Colin Browne Strategic Communications, said: 'The work will primarily involve media relations and stakeholder comms generally.

'When the inquiry was launched, it was felt that it could put BAA's press office in a difficult position had it been given the task of dealing with the inquiry.'

BAA was heavily criticised for its response to December's snowfall.

Chief executive Colin Matthews admitted that Heathrow was not adequately prepared for the bad weather and, as a result, waived his bonus.

Begg's review panel of international aviation experts will seek the views of passengers affected by the disruption, and the wider public.

A website has been set up at heathrowenquiry.com, through which members of the public can provide views that will be considered by the inquiry panel.

Browne was a partner of the Maitland Consultancy until August 2009, before which he was director of corporate affairs at the BBC and director of corporate relations at BT.

The experienced PR man was appointed last week without a pitch process. Part of the role will involve him underlining the independence and expertise of the panel carrying out the inquiry, which is expected to be completed in March.

Virgin Atlantic has threatened to withhold airport fees from BAA over its failure to cope with the heavy snowfall, but Richard Branson's carrier has been left looking increasingly isolated as rival airlines have failed to follow suit.

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