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Heathrow executive Emma Gilthorpe to take the helm at Royal Mail

Ms Gilthorpe will join the group on May 1, before becoming Royal Mail chief executive in the summer.

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Royal Mail has ended its hunt for a new top boss after appointing Heathrow Airport senior executive Emma Gilthorpe to the helm at a crucial time for the postal service.

Owner International Distributions Services (IDS) said Ms Gilthorpe will join the group on May 1, before becoming Royal Mail chief executive in the summer following a handover with interim boss Martin Seidenberg.

Ms Gilthorpe is currently chief operating officer at Heathrow Airport, where she has worked since 2009.

She replaces Mr Seidenberg, who took on the job alongside his existing role as chief executive of the wider IDS group last October when embattled former Royal Mail boss Simon Thompson quit just weeks after agreeing a deal to end a bitter dispute with the firm’s main union.

Ms Gilthorpe’s appointment comes at a critical juncture for Royal Mail, with Ofcom considering options that could see Royal Mail cut its six-days-a-week service or extend delivery times.

Emma Gilthorpe will become chief executive of Royal Mail Group in the summer (Royal Mail/PA)

The other option being reviewed is to extend how long it takes letters to be delivered, meaning that it would take three or more days for most letters to arrive, but with a more expensive next-day delivery service available when required.

Ofcom has since been consulting on the proposals, with a deadline for responses by April 3, while it aims to report back in the summer.

The possible plans have sparked an outcry, while ministers have been quick to dismiss any suggestion that the Government would sanction the scrapping of Saturday deliveries.

Mr Seidenberg, group chief executive of IDS, said: “Emma has an impressive track record of delivering major strategic change programmes whilst driving up performance.

“She will bring a customer and employee-centric approach to delivering Royal Mail’s transformation for the benefit of all our stakeholders.”

Ms Gilthorpe has been in her role at Heathrow since 2020, which saw her oversee the airport’s response to the pandemic.

She also previously held a number of senior roles at the airport, which saw her head up strategy, regulation and sustainability.

Before Heathrow, she worked in a number of strategy, policy and commercial roles in the telecoms sector, at BT and Cable and Wireless.

“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.”

Under its universal service obligation (USO), Royal Mail must deliver letters six days a week to all 32 million addresses in the UK for the price of a stamp.

Royal Mail has urged the Government and Ofcom to review its obligations, arguing that it is no longer workable or cost effective, given the decline in addressed letter post.

The firm recorded a £419 million loss in its previous financial year, while it was also fined £5.6 million last year for failing to meet its delivery targets.

Ofcom has estimated that cutting Royal Mail’s letter delivery service to just three days could save it up to £650 million.

Royal Mail has warned it may need a government subsidy to survive unless the universal service is reformed.

In May last year, former Royal Mail boss Mr Thompson announced plans to quit following a bruising fight with the Communication Workers Union (CWU).

He had been in the role for just two years, during which time he oversaw the first set of strikes since Royal Mail was privatised and a massive and expensive cybersecurity breach, while he was hauled back in front of MPs who accused him of giving them incorrect information.

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