COVID-hit London airport looks to land new CEO as Mike Seabrook retires

Mike Seabrook has decided it’s time to fly off into the sunset, perhaps literally.

“I love aviation. I fly, I have my own plane. It’s in me,” said the departing London International Airport chief, whose retirement was announced Thursday afternoon.

News of Seabrook’s departure comes as the London International Airport deals with its most pressing crisis. The airlines that fly in and out of the facility have been clobbered by COVID-19 travel restrictions, with many carriers grounding most of their fleets until the pandemic passes.

“We’re in a recovery mode,” Seabrook explained.

After nine years as president and chief executive, he already had been thinking about retiring before the coronavirus arrived in Southwestern Ontario more than a year ago.

Leaving now, he says, will give his replacement a chance to bring “fresh ideas and a new approach” to bear as air travel starts back up.

“There is pent-up demand to travel,” Seabrook said. “I think we’re going to see (business) start to come back” before the year ends.

Seabrook will stay on till then, giving the airport’s board seven months to find his successor.

He is looking forward to retiring and plans to spend time golfing, travelling and at his cottage. “So I’ve got lots to do,” he said.

He notes that since he took the top job in 2012, the volume of passengers using the airport had grown from 200,000 to 700,000 people. And as 2020 began, Seabrook was confident that number would top one million.

Then COVID hit. Where London airport once saw 40 flights a day, it’s down to 10 flights a week more than year into the pandemic.

In its announcement Thursday, the board lauded Seabrook’s “integrity and steady hand throughout the past year of pandemic restrictions.” The groundwork he laid will ensure the airport “has the ability to return safely to normalized operations as soon as health restrictions permit,” it added.

The board will consider both external and internal candidates. Baker said running an airport calls for an individual with a blend of business and aviation savvy.

Being surrounded by the other regional airports, and close to Toronto and Detroit, makes Southwestern Ontario a “very competitive marketplace,” he said.

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