Singapore Airlines’ new general manager Balagopal Kunduvara takes the helm and shares insights on shifting trends
Singapore Airlines (SIA) new General Manager Balagopal Kunduvara explains new travel trends and facing competition
Singapore Airlines (SIA) has been operating in the Philippines for 51 years now, delivering nothing short of excellent customer service. It offers a full spectrum of convenient and enjoyable travel experiences—only the best—as befits Singapore’s flag carrier. 2017 is a special year for SIA as it commemorates its 70 years in the air.
To go beyond an already established reputation in the Philippines, SIA appointed Balagopal Kunduvara, one of its most accomplished executives, to helm its operations in the country. “The Philippines presents exciting opportunities that we would like to reciprocate through our best offerings,” Kunduvara, who has been with SIA for 17 years, says.
Kunduvara holds a degree in mechanical engineering from Nanyang Tech University in Singapore and an MBA from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and National University of Singapore, sponsored by SIA. “As a mechanical engineer, there were a select number of industries I wanted to work in but SIA’s branding and presence in Singapore clearly stood out to me. It was the first company I worked with, and I haven’t left since,” he shares.
This is Kunduvara’s first overseas post after filling key positions in SIA’s headquarters in Singapore, foremost among them being the vice president of the airline’s planning and fuel department. He is excited and determined to overcome different challenges. “Competition is tough. It is a challenge for premium airlines like us to continue our presence and leadership without compromising the position we painstakingly built up for the past 70 years.”
Accompanying him to the country are his wife Swathy and their 13-year-old daughter, whom he just collected from the airport minutes before this interview. He says of his family, “They are looking forward to spending their time here. Although there are a fair number of Filipinos in Singapore, we weren’t really exposed to the Filipino culture and cuisine.”
SIA and its fully-owned subsidiaries operate in four airports in the Philippines and fly to 134 destinations worldwide. They have always been on top of the unending change of trends. “I noticed that Filipinos are very close to their families and tend to travel in large groups very often. They are also now more willing to explore new destinations,” Kunduvara remarks. Millennials, on the other hand, present a whole new level of attention to detail. They prefer to customise their travel experiences and make the decisions themselves in all aspects of their travels—flight, food, accommodation, and itinerary—more than other flyers in different age brackets. “Fortunately for us, we offer a much higher quality of service as we don’t charge a premium just for the sake of it,” he says.
For his favourite in-fl ight service, Book the Cook takes the cake as it allows premium passengers to select their preferred cuisine on board. SIA has an international culinary panel composed of quality chefs from different countries. Its aircrafts also have exceptional in-flight entertainment. They were the fi rst airline to offer AV on-demand in all classes several years ago.
“Our position in the market right now didn’t come by chance. Our ability to think of what a customer would like and our willingness to experiment help. When we saw others following us, we knew that we must’ve been doing something right,” he says.
A NEW CHALLENGE General Manager Balagopal Kunduvara at SIA’s SilverKris Lounge in NAIA 3; (inset) Singapore Airlines’ excellent service