British Airways has reached a milestone this year celebrating 85 years in Kenya. The transformation journey has seen them improve their fleet from biplanes to Boeings.
Additionally, this milestone has seen the UK airline adapt to the latest-generation Wi-Fi, which is being rolled out across the long-haul network. Customers are now able to use their own devices to browse the Internet, access e-mail, check social media and stream video content from sites such as Netflix and YouTube.
Technology is also being used to help simplify and speed up the journey through the airport. Customers are now able to use self-service bag drops at Heathrow, enabling them to label their own bags and drop these off before proceeding through security.
British Airways also became the first UK airline to introduce automated biometric technology this year, with the launch of self-service boarding gates at Heathrow Terminal 5.
“It’s amazing to consider how far things have progressed over 85 years – from a week-long journey from Kenya to the UK to a flight that takes less than half a day – but innovation and customer experience remain as important as ever,” said Sophie Onyango, business development manager, British Airways Kenya.
British Airways is continuing the same commitment to the customer experience that impressed passengers when it first started in 1937.
The airline is investing $460 million in Club World, the latest-generation technology in the air and on the ground, new lounges and enhanced catering. This includes a new lounge at the Jomo Kenyatta International in Nairobi, which will be shared with American Airlines.
Catering has been a focus across Africa and improvements have been made on a number of routes, including Kenya. In addition to changes to the on-board menu, a new service style is being introduced across Club World starting from September, with display trolleys allowing customers to select dishes from a choice of freshly prepared starters and desserts, providing an experience similar to that of a premium restaurant.
The EastAfrican's Victor Kiprop speaks to the airline's commercial manager for Kenya and Ghana, Kevin Leung, 26.
What, in your opinion, makes an airport passenger-friendly?
Travelling can be stressful, so anything the airports can do to make the journey less stressful counts. There are a number of things that can be done but I would say proper signage and good facilities such as a welcoming and spacious check-in facility and departure lounges can make airports really friendlier.
If you were to land at a foreign airport for the first time, what are the things you tend to notice?
After 10 hours of a long tiring flight the first thing I would notice is the arrivals procedure; How long it takes to be cleared. The post-arrival facilities such as availability of an arrival lounge and a spacious pick-up area would not escape my eye also.
What do you prefer, direct or connecting flight, and why?
I prefer direct flights because of time. A direct from Nairobi to London for instance would take an average of 8.5 hours, but connecting flights means indirect routing could take up to 15 hours. Who wants to spend 15 hours on a flight when you can arrive seven hours earlier?
Missed flights, forgotten luggage and misplaced passports are some of the problems travellers encounter every day. What would you advise passengers to do before, during and on landing to make their experience as trouble free as possible?
There are certain small things that would help especially if it’s your first time travelling. I always advise travellers to try and check in online and get everything including your baggage and documents order before they get to the airport. Adequate preparation will you give some peace of mind.
Have you had such an experience?
I have been quite lucky with my baggage. I have never misplaced my baggage on any airline, but I have missed a flight in the past.
Is the duty free shopping component of an airport a big deal to you? If so, Why?
Duty free shopping is an important part of airports but not for everyone. For me, probably not, but for my fiancée, probably yes. I do most of my shopping outside airports but she loves shopping, so we have to get to the airport early so she could get at least one and a hour of shopping.
Which is your favourite airport?
That would be the London City Airport. From the lounge to the shops, I love everything about it.
What is your opinion on airplane cabin classes?
Air travel is just like any product out there and cabin classes serve as the different varieties offered. It’s very important to have a range of choices as it enables us to give our customers what they want.
About 30 years ago, we only had first class and economy class but we now have first, business, premium economy and economy classes which allows us to target different segments of the market.
What class cabin do you often fly, and why?
I fly different classes depending on the reasons why I am flying. When I’m going on holiday I fly economy but obviously for work I always fly business or first class.
What does the modern first class traveller want?
The modern traveller is looking for flexibility and freedom. Passengers travelling on first class are offered comfortable seats that can be turned into beds and a wide range of dining options. On the ground they’re offered a range of suits and spa services, massage and room services.