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Incident & Crisis Management

Crisis communication for London Luton Airport




London Luton Airport’s (LLA) vision is to be the simplest and friendliest major airport, focused on sustainable growth. Achieving this vision, against a backdrop of plans to increase the capacity of the airport, required ongoing training of the Crisis Communications Team, and the development and improvement of the Crisis Communications Plan.


Ensure the Crisis Communications Plan is fit for purpose and regularly reviewed, and continuously develop the Crisis Communications Team through effective training and exercising.


4C were asked to develop a capability maturity model for benchmarking progress, design and deliver a training programme (including onboarding materials for future staff) and continuously improve and maintain Crisis Communications plans, policies and manuals. Much of the work was done by 4C supported by the Exonaut Resilience software.


LLA’s Crisis Communication Team has progressively increased capabilities and is better prepared for a range of scenarios. These skills were put to the test in October 2023 during a significant fire for which the response has been recognised as Best in Classaccording to a number of industry awards.


London Luton Airport is one of the UK’s largest airports, and carried 16.4 million passengers in 2023. LLA is a key driver for the local and regional economy, employing 27,000 people directly and through its supply chain.

Sustained partnerships

LLA has worked with 4C Strategies since 2018. With backgrounds as journalists and communication experts, and Incident and Crisis Management experience in both the public and private sector, 4C consultants have provided sustained support, advice and guidance to a growing and evolving team at the Airport.

4C played a leading role in shaping and developing LLA’s crisis communications plan, and lead the ongoing review of documents as well as post-incident debriefs. This ensured that consultants understood the organisation and its teams, and could combine this knowledge with the industry best practice gleaned from combined experience in other settings. This also meant that feedback was easily shared, and recommendations for improvements could be detailed and relevant.

Over time, consultants from 4C have been able to understand the relationship between the Crisis Communications Team and other Crisis Management plans, policies and processes at LLA. This is important, as organisations perform best when they avoid performing their various crisis management functions in silos.

Taking initiative

Best practice dictates that organisations perform best when they are prepared to take active steps to continuously improve teams through new initiatives based on learning and experience. Yet reaching the ‘gold standard’ of crisis communications capability requires organisations to review and improve, even before things go wrong. In light of this, 4C consultants reviewed the existing documentation, and workshopped alongside airport staff the best ways to ensure all staff understand the Crisis Communications arrangements, their roles and responsibilities, and the skills required of each role. Over the years, each new plan and manual has been validated against a variety of scenarios.

collaboration with exonaut
From compliance to capability

Capability Maturity Model

Capability development programmes are most effective when following a clear structure or roadmap. LLA’s Capability Maturity Model serves as a critical tool for both supporting the development of training and exercises—ensuring the correct focus on relevant areas—and evaluating outcomes to determine if staff have improved their crisis communication capabilities. By defining current and desired levels of maturity, 4C built the Model to facilitate benchmarking and the tracking of improvements over time. The Model also provides clear instructions on aligning maturity levels with optimal training and knowledge consolidation methods. Over time, this Model has helped to guide resources to where they are most needed, enabling leadership to demonstrate a clear return on investment by linking costs to the roadmap for advancing from the assessed level of maturity to the desired level.

Real-time response

Last year, LLA’s crisis communication abilities were seriously tested when a multi-storey car park was destroyed by fire, writing off many vehicles, and disrupting hundreds of flights. The incident received national and international press coverage.

Image source: Sky News


In this high-pressure situation, the Crisis Communications Team were confident in their abilities and able convey the priorities of the airport to the general public. A particular strength was the ability for the Crisis Communications Team to take a leading role in the overall airport crisis response and support their colleagues by acting as a ‘go-to’ for situational awareness as the incident unfolded. This was made possible by the ongoing training provided by 4C, which included both general and scenario-specific table-top exercises, presenting a number of ‘worst-case’ scenarios.

Don’t just take our word for it. The Crisis Communications Team at London Luton Airport have since been recognised with a PR Week award, PR Moment award, and the CIPR Excellence Award. Of particular note was the feedback that “the team evidently have a robust crisis communication plan in place [which] was apparent in the results achieved … a clear winner for this category.”

Neil Bradford, Head of Marketing and Communications, London Luton Airport:

“Training and exercising is vital for any organization to ensure they can respond at a moment’s notice to any given issue or crisis. By working closely with 4C on training, exercises, benchmarking and a continual review of our plans, we had the competence and confidence as a team to effectively communicate within minutes of, and throughout, what was arguably the airport’s biggest incident in years”.

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