Moran Birger, Acting Head of Sales for Asia Pacific and the Middle East, British Airways talks British Airways centenary celebrations as well as its performance in India market
British Airways is hosting a range of activities and events to celebrate its centenary year. The airline is also hosting BA 2119 – a programme that will lead the debate on the future of flying and explore the future of sustainable aviation fuels.
British Airways celebrates its centenary this year. Apart from heritage liveries and a star -studded campaign, what sorts of activities are planned for the centenary?
A key focus area of British Airways activity this year will be on the future of flying, demonstrating that the airline is forward-looking and will continue to innovate and evolve over the next 100 years. We are working on interesting campaigns for 2019 that will revolve around the same theme. One such initiative is BA Magic 100 where we are looking forward to surprise many of our customers with gestures that add magic to their flying experience. In December 2018, British Airways made Christmas special for a group of children, by taking them on a trip of a lifetime to New York City to ‘live like Kevin’, inspired by the adventures of Kevin in the festive family favourite, Home Alone 2.
On International Women’s Day, we invited 100 young women to the Global Learning Academy to inspire them to become commercial airline pilots. Believing in empowering the youth to pursue career opportunities in aviation, hundreds of apprentices enjoyed a flying start to their career with British Airways through a Cabin Crew Apprenticeship programme in the UK – with this, we aim to employ around 2,000 cabin crew this year.
British Airways also recently launched a brand campaign featuring a love letter to Britain brought to life by some of Britain’s biggest names. This campaign is about thanking the amazing people who fly, work and partner with us.
British Airways is also hosting BA 2119. Could you please detail us on this?
BA 2119 will lead the debate on the future of flying and explore the future of sustainable aviation fuels, the aviation careers and the customer experience of the future. In collaboration with Cranfield University, this initiative aims at challenging academics from across UK, to develop a sustainable alternative fuel which could power a commercial aircraft on a long-haul flight, carrying up to 300 customers with zero net emissions. The winning team will receive funding for further research and the chance to work alongside industry leaders to develop their concept. British Airways is the first airline in Europe to invest in building a plant to generate renewable jet fuel from household waste.
You have launched a £6.5bn investment programme. What is the latest development on this plan?
We started this year with the £6.5bn investment programme, an initiative to enhance customer proposition on ground and in the air by introducing new aircraft, new cabins, new lounges, new food and new technology including Wi-Fi.
We have recently announced significant changes to our onboard product and service in our First cabin. The new look and feel are set to take to the skies from March 31 and will include new bedding, amenities and menus that would not look out of place in a revered five-star British hotel. Also, very recently, British Airways has announced its brand new A350 aircraft that will arrive in July this year with a highly anticipated Club Suite.
How has the performance been of British Airways on Indian routes in 2018?
India is British Airways’ second largest market after the US and we are committed to invest and offer exceptional travel experience to more and more customers. The popularity of our daily services from several Indian cities to UK reflects the demand from travellers wishing to fly to UK.
Are you looking at any new routes in India or increase frequency? How is your codeshare with Vistara going on?
We are happy with the current schedule of 53 flights a week from India. In fact, last year, we expanded our network in the region by having Vistara on board as a codeshare partner and currently we are focusing on the same.
Our codeshare with Vistara has been good so far. With this partnership, we have spread our wings by connecting 13 new destinations across the region, opening cities such as Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Goa, Kolkata, Kochi, and Pune that have previously been more difficult to access from the UK. In fact, British Airways’ customers travelling on the codeshare flights can check-in their bags straight to their destination and both airlines use the same terminals at Delhi and Mumbai airports, making it even easier for customers to connect on to domestic services.
What is the travellers profile out of India?
Travellers in India are constantly evolving; their profiles have changed too with more Indians opting for International holidays. From corporate to leisure travellers, the average Indian travelling abroad is now more likely to be young and prefers travelling solo. We have also seen an increase in women travellers – both solo and in group, stepping ahead of their comfort zones and unveiling the travel experience. With our extensive global route network, and with new destinations launching all the time, we hope that we can enable and inspire adventurous travellers to continue exploring without limit.
How important is b2b travel agents for you?
B2B travel agencies play a crucial role in widening our customer reach. We work very closely with the travel communities especially in India, as there are many markets where agents are the primary choice for bookings.