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Kola Olayinka on the golden age of travel

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Kola Olayinka on the golden age of travel

BA always reviews it routes including demands of its customers

BA always reviews it routes including demands of its customers

Kola Olayinka is British Airways, regional commercial manager, West Africa, in this interview he speaks with FUNKE OSAE-BROWN on British Airways Boeing 747 Abuja and his life managing BA in the region.

The first time I met him was at a meeting at the Southern Sun, Ikoyi. He was there with his team to welcome and introduce Jamie Cassidy, area general manager, Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, British Airways (BA) to the media. He radiated warmth as he spoke passionately about British Airways during the question and answer session. That was Kola Olayinka, British Airways, regional commercial manager, West Africa.

Olayinka has been working with BA for 24 years. As the regional commercial manager, West Africa, Olayinka is responsible for overall British Airways commercial activities all over West Africa, revenue generation, business development, staff management and government liaison in the region. Before his promotion as the regional commercial manager, West Africa he was the country manager, Nigeria, Liberia, and Sierra Leone for four years.

“I have enjoyed every minute of my time here,” he tells me, “especially working alongside colleagues who are inspiring and ready to go the extra mile has enriched one’s life as well.”

In this era when air travel has reached what could be termed the golden age with the industry becoming more competitive, Olayinka and his team have been putting together services that will make customers make BA an airline of choice. One of such steps BA has taken under his leadership, is its recent launch of the Boeing 747 on the Abuja route.

Olayinka says BA always reviews it routes including demands of its customers. “At the end of the day, they (customers) determine what we offer, so in this case, we have been talking to our customers for some time now via various means, regular on board surveys, feedback from key customers etc. We know that the Abuja route remains an important part of our Africa network and the time is now right to add additional capacity by bringing in the 747. We strongly believe this will serve our customers better, we have just refitted our First cabin and installed new in-flight entertainment, with ‘Video on demand’ capability, I am very confident that our Abuja customers will be delighted with the service just introduced.”

According to him, passengers on the route stand to gain better service, more space, ability to book and travel at will as the BA offers more seats on the route. “You will also know that the 747 boast of an upper deck which is obviously new in Abuja, this has proved very popular with our customers in Club World (Business class) hence this cabin in the upper deck is booked out so early, I will advise our passengers to please book early to ensure they get their desired seats. Operating a larger aircraft underpins our commitment and confidence in this route.”

He explains that BA is aware of the impeccable taste of its Nigerian customers who are very well travelled. “They not only fly from Abuja, they fly all over the World and are very experienced with Aircrafts, so I am not surprised they always make demands to see the best on their home front, when they demand, it is our duty as a service provider to respond so that we can keep our clientele, competition is never easy, but the good thing is that it keeps all of us on our toes and the customers are the better for it.”

Abuja route remains an important part of our Africa network

Abuja route remains an important part of our Africa network

Olayinka says the 747 has four cabins that BA offers on the Abuja route. “Our World Traveler cabin for the discerning customer going off to sign off a deal in London, Paris or Frankfurt, our Passengers who may want a bit more space going off to see kids in school and taking the kids with them in World Traveler Plus, here is a bit more of everything, space, seat pitch, great meals, wonderful on board service coupled with a great in-flight entertainment system.

“The business traveller, who may want the ability to use their laptop on board, just to finish that last minute presentation or finalise preparation for that meeting in New York or Houston, we offer our flat beds in Club World.”

He adds that BA’s flagship cabin, First class, is really an epitome of class and service, with personalised electronic blinds, great space, visitor sitting area where a colleague can come in for last minute briefing or discussion, great meal choice and really classy environment for whatever our customers choose to do, be entertained, great meals choice, sleep, work, drink.

“It is just a great environment on board these days. It’s like home, you can even change into your pyjamas that are provided by BA and can stretch out all the way for a great on board sleep, fresh and ready for business at the other end. You must remember that most of our customers work really hard, whichever country they work in and all that people want to do these days is just to get onboard and just unwind, we have been able to take the stress out of flying, it is a time to be pampered,” he explains further.

Olayinka says BA now offer daily 747 services from Lagos and Abuja to London as the flights operate into Heathrow’s Terminal 5 making it possible for passengers to connect easily to other international routes. “This is a convenient schedule,” he explains. “What’s more, the flights operate into Terminal 5, providing our Nigerian customers with exceptional connections to the most popular destinations in North America on our own services or those of our joint business partners American Airlines, US Airways and Iberia. We believe that by introducing the 747 to Abuja, we are providing the right capacity, a good schedule and convenient access to a very strong global network for our Nigerian customers.”

Before he joined BA, he was sales manager, Nigeria at Qatar Airways leading its start-up commercial team. Previously, he was regional sales manager, East at John Holt Leasing Plc where he led the company’s commercial team in Port Harcourt. The quest for success has been behind Olayinka’s career growth. It is therefore not a surprise that has been on top of the game overseeing BA’s operations in West Africa.

“As I’ve said, the introduction of additional capacity is a vote of confidence in the Nigerian market and a demonstration of our commitment to our Nigerian customers. It’s all thanks to our great customers who keep choosing us over and above other airlines, time and time again, In BA, we know and acknowledge that the very essence of our being in business revolves around our customers, without them, we will have no one to fly, so I will like to say a very big thank you to all our customers in Nigeria.”

Managing airline operations sure comes with its own challenges and Olayinka says: “By its very nature, the airline industry is challenging. It’s a complex, highly regulated business, margins are thin and competition is intense. In Nigeria, airport infrastructure is something we need to improve. Over the past few years there have been commendable efforts to refurbish some airports and a real commitment to improve things. We need to build on that.

Aviation is a key contributor to our GDP, its multiplier effects can really help our economy, I trust that our incoming Government will focus on this area and truly bring change that will be enduring and will translate to even greater economic growth for our great country Nigeria.”

Olayinka, whose favourite game is football, says outside of work he enjoys spending time with his family. “I really enjoy spending time with my family, I absolutely adore my Children and I thank God for such wonderful blessings, I am happiest when I have them all around me. As they are growing older, Kehinde and I try very hard to spend as much time as is possible with them. We already have a graduate with MBA, who we are very proud of and the rest are growing up wonderfully as well to the glory of God.”

In addition, he tells me there are many destinations he really loves but Seychelles stands out of the lot.

“I have many destinations that I really love, in the U.S and London of course is a favourite for most Nigerians, I love London myself but the one destination that stands out for me and the family is Seychelles. It’s a really fantastic destination, it’s described as Paradise by the Lagoon, it truly is, very unspoilt, very interesting, I love Seychelles.”

On the next big step for BA in Nigeria he says: “To build on what we’ve achieved so far, we’ve introduced more capacity, now we need to fill it. Once we’ve successfully done that, we can look to what comes next.”


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