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An exclusive interview with Roland Blaney, Manager Pakistan
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 in Pakistan
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.