BA has a strong presence in India, is there a specific strategy to reinstate its commitment to the India market?
India continues to be a growth market for us and, after the US, is BA’s second largest market outside the UK. As an airline, BA is committed towards being more innovative to stay ahead of the game, and to really put our customers at the heart of our business. In fact, we have announced a GBP 5 billion investment over the next five years in aircraft, product, service and catering enhancements to improve the customer experience. The benefits to our customers will be tangible. Many of these improvements and new features can already be seen on our flights from India. Key investments include:
- We are heavily investing in technology that enables business customers to quickly and easily check in, access the latest flight details and generate mobile boarding passes through their smartphones. Our apps are available for the iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Windows Phones to help our customers manage their travel easily while on the move. We also announced a new Perfect Day app for iPhones recently, to enable our customers on the move to capture and share their own ideal personalised travel guides and more.
- We are also investing in technology for our crew. The recent introduction of iPads allows our crew to know travellers even better to deliver more personalised, efficient and intuitive service.
- We are revolutionising the inflight dining experience by introducing a host of new onboard menus and drink choices as part of a global multimillion-dollar customer service programme. We launched our new umami-based menus, which promises full-flavoured culinary experiences even at 35,000 feet. More recently, we have announced a refreshed menu, specially designed for our Indian customers in collaboration with Oberoi Flight Services (OFS) based on customer insights flying Indian routes.
- BA.com has redesigned and launched its new homepage
- We have ordered 12 Airbus A380s and 24 Boeing 787 aircraft. The build on our first A380, to be delivered next year.
What is BA’s long term vision for India?
We have noted that this market is growing much faster than many others. In India, there exists a strong surge for international travel fuelled by the growth of domestic tourism in India and increasing outbound travel from India. More Indians are travelling abroad for leisure and/or business than ever before, primarily from the burgeoning middle class with its massive purchasing power.
As India remains one of the most critical markets for us, we are constantly working towards improving our services and inflight experience for the customers here. As mentioned earlier, last year we launched a special inflight menu designed for our Indian customers as well as have announced a new management team to drive the next phase of our growth in the region.
Is there a specific target market the airline is planning to capture from India and are there specific marketing tools for the same?
Currently, our focus remains the five metros in India, which include Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai. As mentioned earlier, India remains one of the most critical markets for BA; we are constantly working towards improving our services and in-flight experience for the customers here.
What according to BA is its USP vis-à-vis competition in its space?
We have now flown for over 84 years to India and possess a strong heritage and understanding of the market. We are operating 45 flights a week to London Heathrow from five key cities in India (Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai). Soon, we will increase the weekly frequency from Hyderabad and Chennai markets to six flights from five flights a week. To cater to our First and Club World customers, BA has created the First and Club Galleries lounge at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. Additionally, in our endeavour to provide better services to customers, we are constantly introducing attractive offers and bringing forth innovative features.
There is an increasing emphasis on promoting your extensive connections to North America. Why and what is the expectations out of the India market?
BA has a worldwide route network that covers more than 150 destinations in 75 countries. We have an extensive network to North America and Canada with connectivity to over 200 destinations. We signed a code share agreement with American Airlines last year to further enhance our services and reach to the North Atlantic region. We want to make travel as stress-free as possible for our customers. Our flights from India connect through Heathrow’s Terminal 5, which ensures seamless connectivity for travelling on another flight from London. All transfers are made easy, as customers don’t need to change terminals. With many such benefits, we believe that BA is a prime choice for Indian customers to travel to the US.
Is there a specific commitment to India in terms of offering specialised service on the Indian route?
As an airline, BA is committed towards being more innovative to stay ahead of the game, and to really put our customers at the heart of our business. We ensure to provide the best-in-class onboard our flights from India and keep in mind special dietary requirements.
In this age of commission cuts, how does BA show its solidarity to its trade partners, the travel agents and ticketing agents?
BA has a longstanding relation with travel agents, we have invested heavily in other technologies such as BA 24 hour helpline and online ticketing. The ratio of percentage of business through travel agents in India is high. It’s more than half. The travel agents are a significant part of our work and they are valuable partners.
The trade partners are our valuable extensions to the Indian market. We have launched several initiatives to further strengthen our relationship as well as create better customer experience. In fact, BA recently hosted an exclusive evening dedicated to its trade partners to celebrate and recognise their unwavering commitment in the past year. The trade event, which was hosted by BA in New Delhi recently, witnessed the airline playing host to a cross section of its partners to express appreciation for their support as well as to recognise efforts of the best performing partners in 2012. We want to give the agents as much knowledge as we can about the product, provide them with some great fares to sell and then help them to sell it.