An exclusive interview with Roland Blaney, Manager
By Shabbir H. Kazmi
July 30 - Aug 05 , 2001
British Airways (BA) has a long and committed
history of operations in Pakistan. It has been constantly striving to
offer superb quality services and products. In order to get a feed
back on measures recently introduced by the CAA and BA's future plan, PAGE
talked to Roland Blaney, Manager for Pakistan.
PAGE: BA has recently completed 25 years
of flying to Islamabad, though its history of flying to this part of
the world is older than that, how would you describe BA's experience
Roland Blaney: British Airways has been serving
this part of the world for last 70 years through its predecessors
Imperial Airways and BOAC. At present BA operates three weekly flights
between Islamabad and London. Our is the only foreign carrier
providing non-stop and direct flights between the two destinations.
This saves considerable time of the travellers. We are happy to have
completed 25 years of service to Islamabad. It expresses our
commitment to Pakistan as a destination.
PAGE: How do you see the future growth of
aviation business in Pakistan?
Blaney: Pakistan's aviation scenario is
encouraging and has great potential for growth. The CAA has introduced
new measures in consultation with the foreign airlines operating from
Pakistan. Landing charges and fuel price have been rationalized. We
also hope that with growth quality of services and products offered by
airlines operating here will improve. We believe that quality and
safety should remain the top priority.
PAGE: How do you view recent steps taken by
Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan (CAA) to regulate the fares?
Blaney: Regulatory authorities all over the
world take steps to regulate fares. The purpose is to ensure that not
only the market remains competitive but also that price under-cutting
does not affect the quality of service offered by any airline. We hope
that recent steps taken by the CAA will improve market conditions and
will allow the airlines to improved quality of their services and to
introduce new and better products.
PAGE: British Airways is perceived to be an
expensive airline, how do you see its business in a price sensitive
market like Pakistan?
Blaney: We at British Airways assign top
priority to customer comfort and safety. We have been investing
continuously in upgrading our fleet and services. People in Pakistan
understand value of the improved products and better services. We are
satisfied with our business in Pakistan and hope that it will grow
with the passage of time. We do not believe in cost cutting, we want
to generate more business by offering better products to the
travellers. For example, while many other airlines may be keen in
generating extra revenue by adding extra seats, BA has reduced the
number of seats in economy class from 322 to 122 and we operate Boeing
747 on Karachi-London-Karachi flights.
PAGE: What future product improvements British
Airways intends to bring.
Blaney: Referring to future improvements in
services and products, the airline had recently completed a 600
million Pounds product improvement programme. British Airways now has
fully refurbished First Class. It has introduced fully flat beds in
Club Class and has also introduced the concept of four cabins. Fourth
cabin — World Traveler Plus — offers a choice to those passengers
who are willing to spend a little extra for more comfort. The airline
also has an improved economy Class. Travellers from Pakistan have the
advantage of these product and service improvement while travelling on
British Airways flights on Mondays and Wednesdays from Islamabad. Our
business partners, have suggested that BA should introduce a cargo
flight from Lahore or Sialkot and we are considering the proposal.
PAGE: What is the worldwide response to the new
products introduced by BA?
Blaney: There has been excellent response to
the new products. The customers have received our new Club Class very
enthusiastically. It is a great success for long haul flights to USA
and Pacific destinations. The same also goes true for Pakistan.
PAGE: How do you cater to the needs of the
Muslim passengers travelling by British Airways
Blaney: British Airways is very sensitive to
the particular needs of its Muslim passengers. We provide Halal
food on all our flights coming to and leaving from Pakistan. The
entire food on these flights is Halal. However, people
not interested in such food have the options. We also provide Mecca
meters and prayer-mats to facilitate our passengers.
PAGE: Ground handling ensures smooth operation
for any airline, how do you make sure that the ground handling stays
up to mark?
Blaney: We have hired the services of a
professional agency, Shaheen Airport Service, for this purpose. The
ground handling facility provided by the Agency is monitored closely
and it is as good as service provided by our own staff
internationally. We also train our ground handling staff to facilitate
the passengers to the maximum. Our ground handling is focused on
ensuring that passengers have to spend minimum time while they check
in. We encourage them to use technological innovations like
fax/telephone and based check-in facility. We have an excellent record
of punctuality which is crucial for the customers.