British Airways recently announced a number of investment plans to enhance Middle Eastern customers’ experience, the most important being the launch of its new First Wing at the Heathrow Airport. Robert Williams, Head of Sales for ME and Asia Pacific, talks about the efforts taken to drive the airline’s regional operations.
Q. Do share a little about British Airways’ operations in the Middle East.
We’ve completed 85 years of successful operations in the Middle East and the region continues to remain extremely important to British Airways. We are continuously making investments in the direction of enhancing our customers’ experience. The airline is set to launch 22 new routes in 2017, which will expand its network of onward connections for the United Arab Emirates and other Middle East customers. In my new role, I will be responsible for managing the airline’s growth and development across Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar, which are some of British Airways’ most important overseas markets.
Q. What are you offering to the Middle East passengers that others are not?
We witness a high preference for our premium services from across the region. This is primarily due to the unique flying experience that we provide to our customers. One such experience offered by us is the new First Wing at the Heathrow Airport, which is immediately available for all the passengers flying first class with us. Flights from across the Middle East land at Terminal 5, British Airways’ flagship terminal, which is now home to its exclusive new ‘First Wing’ check-in area. Among the various exclusive features, the First Wing includes a dedicated two-lane security channel and direct access to the Galleries First Lounge and Concorde Room for the first time. The new security lanes reduce the number of travellers passing through the current South security lanes, helping to speed up the checks and other formalities for the Club World customers too. A relaxed seating area is available after security check for the passengers to gather their possessions in an unhurried atmosphere. The First Wing gives the first-class and Gold Executive Club customers far greater exclusivity, with a dedicated combined check-in and Fast Track space.
Q. What are you offering ‘new’ to the Middle East passengers?
We have recently announced our investment plans for our customers, which are primarily centred on providing excellence in the premium cabins and more choice and quality for all. The first of these new investments that is especially for our customers in the Middle East is the new First Wing at London’s Heathrow Airport. It is designed to offer an exclusive experience to our firstclass, Executive Club Gold, and one-world Emerald customers through a new and improved check-in zone and direct lounge access. It has two new dedicated security lanes, which are designed to make our premium customers’ journey through the airport quick and convenient, and it provides direct access to the Galleries First Lounge and Concorde Room to make the stay of the customers at the airport much more relaxing. Further, we have Terminal 5 as our flagship home, which together with the First Wing, significantly improves the airport experience for our premium customers. In the coming months, the airline will announce the introduction of new Club World cabins and self-service check-in, along with biometric boarding gates. More updates over the last 18 months include the opening of our prestigious new lounge at Concourse D in Dubai International Airport. We launched direct services between Oman and London Heathrow and Qatar and London Heathrow at the end of 2016 – these routes previously included one stopover. Additionally, this year, we introduced the 787-9 Dreamliner on our Jeddah route. The aircraft’s new-generation first-class cabins have received positive feedback from all our sophisticated travellers in KSA.