INTERVIEW

In Focus: Gulf Air

5 years ago by

Kavita S. Al Jassim, Head of Gulf Air’s Customer Experience speaks about the airline’s holistic approach in providing an exceptional passenger experience through round-the-clock customer support services, luxurious airport lounges, a well-established loyalty and rewards program, and a taste of traditional Arabian hospitality.

In Focus: Gulf Air

Q: What key factors enable Gulf Air to provide the ultimate passenger experience?

Kavita Al Jassim: The ultimate passenger experience, we believe, is enhanced by facilitating greater frequency and ease of customer interaction with the airline. This is a vital aspect of ensuring customer satisfaction and centres on the constant presence and ease of access to Gulf Air representatives, throughout our passengers’ experience with Gulf Air.

At Gulf Air, we have integrated the major customer touch points under one umbrella and have called it the Customer Experience unit. By doing this we have panned out a consistent product and service offering throughout these touch points making it a unique passenger experience. A variety of mediums that help maintain customer satisfaction and facilitate customer interaction with Gulf Air representatives are widely available to our customers: a 24 hour worldwide call centre, online and pre-travel support, a dedicated customer care team, customer service desks and Gulf Air offices throughout all our networks and more. The availability of all these channels gives our customers the assurance of our go-to assistance with their needs and requests and our ability to provide the satisfactory experience they would expect from Gulf Air.

Q: What Customer Service aspects set you apart from other airlines in the region?

Kavita Al Jassim:

A 24/7 multilingual worldwide call centre, ready to assist all our customers from around the world.

A dedicated customer care team for hands-on and swift complaint / issue resolution.One of the most distinctive factor of our Customer Service offering is that if our customers want to meet us we endeavor to personally meet them face to face. At Gulf Air we take pride in knowing that our customers can reach out to us and we are there to listen – while in most of the major airlines today, communication is confined to emails or phone calls.

Traditional Arabian hospitality with a true Bahraini flavour that reflects on the smiles and service standard of all our staff, whether on the ground or in the air, presented in a manner that would give our customers a taste of our culture and the importance we place on their satisfaction throughout their journey with Gulf Air.

Free of charge seat pre-reservations and meal services, including special meal pre-requests.
Cross-cultural incentives that cater to different backgrounds.

A rewarding Falconflyer loyalty programme, the first of its kind in the Gulf region and that has recently celebrated its 20 year anniversary. By having a large base of its members in the Kingdom of Bahrain, it has successfully built a closer and more personal relationship between these members and the Falconflyer team through direct and very personalized communication. Apart from our e-mail interactions and monthly newsletters, members have the ability to contact our team directly via telephone or visit us face to face which helps enforce our connection with our valuable and loyal members. We work hard to strengthen the ties between our team and our Falconflyer members – drawing them into the Gulf Air community so that they feel increasingly a part of the airline’s global family.

Q: What facilities are available at airport lounges for Gulf Air passengers while they are in transit?

Kavita Al Jassim: Gulf Air has dedicated “Gulf Air Falcon Gold Lounges” in Bahrain International Airport, Dubai International Airport and Heathrow Airport – T4.

The airline’s lounge in Bahrain International Airport was renovated and officially inaugurated in 2012 under the patronage of Her Excellency Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa, Bahrain’s Minister of Culture. Receiving much acclaim from passengers, the lounge is catered to helping transit passengers relax during their travels, so much so in fact that they may find themselves hoping for a flight delay. There’s not much chance of that happening: Gulf Air was ranked second among Middle East full service carriers for on-time-punctuality in 2014, and has been in the top, first place ranking consistently throughout 2013 and 2012.

Q: What sets the Gulf Air Falcon Gold Lounge (Bahrain) apart from other lounges?

Kavita Al Jassim: The Gulf Air Falcon Gold Lounge is distinct in many ways. It can accommodate up to 200 people and combines the traditional Arabian theme with modern amenities giving guests a sense of space and freedom. The lounge features well laid-out business, dining, lounging facilities and TV areas in addition to offering panoramic views of the runway through a high glass wall.

Q: What are your online customer support processes?

Kavita Al Jassim: A host of multiple customer support centred teams are committed to ensure all Gulf Air passengers are taken care of from the point of their ticket purchase to their post-travel experience. Our web support team is ready to assist with any queries or help with utilizing the many expansive features of our Gulf Air website. Our World Wide Call Centre support team are also available at all times for our customers’ pre-travel requests, such as booking, re-booking, seating, meals, special assistance and more. The Falconflyer team also directly conclude any of our members’ queries or requests.

Last but not least, our fully dedicated Customer Care team is constantly working hard to provide our customers with an even more satisfactory post-travel experience. Feedback forms are available on our website for any complaints or suggestions to us. This feedback is immediately acknowledged and complaints are concluded in a timely fashion. Of course, our complaint handling procedures are focused on ensuring the customer is frequently updated on the progress of their claim to give them the comfort that they are well taken care of during the period of their interaction with us.

Q: What special services do you offer to facilitate passengers with children?

Kavita Al Jassim: Families with children get boarding priority on the ground. In addition, our highly trained Sky Nanny Service is also available on our long haul flights to cater to our younger travelers, providing them with fun and enjoyment throughout the flight and ensuring the utmost comfort to other passengers onboard.

Q: What facilities do you have available for senior and disabled passengers?

Kavita Al Jassim: Priority boarding is also provided for our elderly and disabled customers and a free of charge request can be made for wheelchair assistance from the point of check-in up to reaching their assigned seat.

Q: What feedback programs and procedures do you have in place to measure passenger satisfaction with the overall travel experience?

Kavita Al Jassim: There are a number of feedback mechanisms in place both on the ground and in the air which allow us to give a voice to our customers and obtain their valuable impressions, recommendations and/or criticisms. Based on the feedback, we further conduct Service Quality Control checks. For example if we receive comments that our customers find the check in is slow, we put in measures to correct this and further verify the same through a quality check. One of the best ways to hear the voice of the customer is through the IATA Customer Satisfaction survey that we distribute on every flight. As I mentioned earlier, we strive in every way possible to be seen as an airline that listens to its customers and actively participates in dialogue with them.

Additionally, our members are given Appreciation Vouchers in their member packs that they can give to any Gulf Air employee who brings a smile to their face and whose service exceeds their expectations. We are often asked for extra vouchers by members and we are delighted to see this happen.

Q: What new services and features is Gulf Air introducing in the future to further improve the passenger experience?

Kavita Al Jassim: Gulf Air is committed to strengthening its core services and providing the airline’s passengers with improved products and services to further enhance the passenger experience. New routes, product and service enhancements are part of Gulf Air’s business strategy and, accordingly, the airline is continually re-evaluating the holistic offering that is Gulf Air – the entire experience and what it means to our customers, employees and, of course, passengers.

In line with this, Gulf Air’s Falconflyer loyalty programme, pioneered by the airline two decades ago and boasting over a million members across 100 countries around the globe saw a new addition with the recently launched, premium, Black tier Falconflyer loyalty programme card. The Black tier introduces a host of new benefits for the airline’s most elite level of frequent flyer programme members and supplements the programme’s existing Blue, Silver and Gold loyalty program tiers.

We anticipate many more positive developments going forward as we continue to work towards making every aspect of the Gulf Air experience, for our broad spectrum of passengers, as positive as possible.

About Kavita S. Al Jassim:

Kavita Jassim joined Gulf Air in 1988 and has been the Head of Customer Experience for the airline since July 2013. She oversees Worldwide Contact Centre, Loyalty, Baggage Claims, Customer Care and Service Quality Control.

Kavita is also the Chairperson of the Worldwide Airline Customer Relations Association (WACRA) holding the prestigious designation for the past 8 years.