One step ahead

Paul Starrs, British Airways' area commercial manager for the Middle East and Pakistan, on opening Terminal 5, introducing more Dubai flights and outsmarting rivals.


Paul Starrs, British Airways' area commercial manager for the Middle East and Pakistan, on opening Terminal 5, introducing more Dubai flights and outsmarting rivals.

Why introduce six additional weekly flights to Dubai late last year?

First and foremost, we have terrific products that customers value above the competition (including fully-flat beds in business and first-class cabins) so strong demand for our products is the primary reason for introducing more services.

Secondly, our customers told us they wanted more travel options. The new early afternoon flight gives the busy business traveller an additional option to work at the Dubai office in the morning before travelling to London and arriving early evening.

This complements our existing services that offer late night departures, which arrive early next morning - perfect for onward connections to the US and Canada - and an early morning departure, which arrives mid-afternoon. We are very pleased with the performance of the additional flights.

Will you consider retaining these flights after the winter period?

Yes, we would like to make this a more permanent part of our Dubai schedule and already have plans to re-introduce the third service for next winter.

Can we expect new destinations and increased frequencies on the existing routes?

As mentioned, we are planning to re-introduce the additional flight to Dubai this October. That month will also see the re-introduction of a daily 747 service from Bahrain and Doha (following its move to a smaller 777 aircraft from March through to October).

In addition, we are constantly reviewing our network for other opportunities in the Middle East's booming travel sector.

As area commercial manager for this region, what are your objectives for the next 12 months?

We have lots of exciting customer-focused initiatives that we are launching in 2008. These include the introduction of our new club world product on all flights from the Middle East, and ongoing promotion of Terminal 5 as the best airport for customers travelling from the Middle East to the US and Canada.

We are also continually developing our loyalty scheme for small corporates and strengthening our relationships with other corporate customers by offering dedicated account management services.

How much of the airline's business comes from the Middle East?

This information is commercially sensitive, but hopefully you can see that with 55 services a week, it's an important part of our global network.

How will opening a new terminal at Heathrow benefit passengers flying to and from this region?

It's difficult to articulate all the benefits that Terminal 5 will bring to our customers because there are so many. The single biggest benefit is that almost all British Airways services will operate from a single terminal.

So whether you are travelling onwards to a UK, European or US destination, you will have a significantly smoother transition through London Heathrow.

In addition to this, we have invested more than GBP60 million in our new galleries lounge facilities, which I visited recently and they are absolutely fantastic.

We have invested more than £370 million in a state-of-the-art baggage retrieval system, 100 fast bag drops and self service kiosks. A range of excellent shops will also be available.

In short, the T5 experience should be one that customers come to enjoy and welcome as part of their overall journey experience.

How will you stay ahead of competitors such as Silverjet which, like BA, recently cut their prices on business tickets?

In April last year, we launched a new, more dynamic pricing structure for the region's business-class (Club World) customers. As a result of this, we now offer terrific business-class fares to those customers who can book well in advance and travel on off-peak flights.

Thanks to this new approach, we offer return fares to London in our award winning Club World cabin from just 6990 dirhams plus taxes, fees and charges.

Our customers are delighted with these new fares and tell us they represent excellent value in the highly competitive market for business class travel.

BA and Silverjet's business class prices are lower than Emirates. Are you confident that you can secure some of their customers?

It's a double bonus for customers. From a product perspective our customers tell us we have a distinct advantage over many competitors by having fully-flat beds on all flights from the Middle East.

From a pricing perspective they love our new club world fares. So a great product coupled with a highly competitive fare equals a brilliant proposition for British Airways customers.

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