Nurlan Zhumasultanov: “More Work, Less PR”

During the first half of 2016 BekAir airline frequently made headlines for the general public’s delight: The argument with the Civil Aviation Committee followed by the court case, which was won by the airline; the incident with “Kyzylorda – Astana” flight and the crew commander Rodin being awarded by the President. All those events received a friendly support of the public and extended coverage in the mass media.

SKY Magazine was curious to know: What are the reasons for popularity of the airlines? Is it because of their well-thought-out PR strategy or just a lucky alignment of stars ? We discussed it with Nurlan Zhumasultanov, Chairman of the Board of BekAir.


THE EVENTS OF THE FIRST HALF OF 2016 WITH BEKAIR PROVE THE PROVERB “WHATEVER HAPPENS, HAPPENS FOR THE BEST”. EACH AND EVERY SITUATION WORK FOR YOUR COMPANY. HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

It is due to the professional training of our team. Of course, I’m personally involved in every detail of the situation.
My experience suggests that there is always a way out, either positive or negative. I aspire to find positive solutions only. With a profficient approach one can channel any event into a positive way.

BEKAIR HAVE DEMONSTRATED SUCH A PROFICIENT APPROACH MANY TIMES. FOR INSTANCE, IN THE CASE OF HEROIC LANDING OF KYZYLORDA – ASTANA FLIGHT. YOUR COMPANY HAS IMMEDIATELY AND WISELY COMMENTED ON THE INCIDENT IN THE MASS MEDIA. HOW DID YOU DO THAT SO PRECISELY AND INSTANTLY?

As soon as we heard what happened, we got together and discussed it. First of all, we considered conformity in actions of the crew. When landing an aircraft with nose gear off it is forbidden to stop too quickly, otherwise there will be a great hit resulting in deformation of the aircraft body as well as a threat to the passengers’ health. A pilot has to hold the speed in such a way that the aircraft gently lowers the head avoiding the impact. Rodin’s team acted adequately, consistently and wisely. There was grinding, of course, as the aircraft made a belly landing, but most importantly it din’t hit the ground. Subsequently, the experts confirmed high level of crew’s excellence as none of the aircraft’s primary structural members had been affected, only the skin had been damaged. This proved that the pilot was precise in choosing the right flight trajectory so that the landing would be maximum safe for passengers and would cause minimum aircraft damages.

Next, we considered the reasons behind landing gear malfunction. The reasons may be of two kinds – manufacturing defect and customer induced damage. Aviation has to hold responsibility for customer induced damages but manufacturing defect is beyond the competence of an airline. It was a manufacturing defect in case of Rodin’s crew.

But then our passengers are not really interested in the reasons for defects. Our goal is to ensure their safety on a flight. That is why BekAir continuously invests in pilots advanced training. Twice a year we send crew members to the training academy in Amsterdam where they work on all possible extreme circumstances including landing with landing gear malfunction etc. The pilot aims to complete the flight in standard as well as in extreme conditions.

BEKAIR WITH ITS LOW AIRFARE HAS TRULY BECOME A “PEOPLE’S AIRLINE”. HOW DID YOU DO THIS?

For quite some time I worked in national security and this institution knows the needs of ordinary people, what they like and what they don’t. At some point I dealt with aviation matters. When I established BekAir, the initial goal was to satisfy the needs of ordinary people. As far as we know, people really appreciated it.

BUT YOUR AIRLINE GETS PEOPLE’S ATTENTION NOT ONLY BECAUSE OF YOUR AIRFARE COSTS. YOUR AIRLINE IS ACTIVELY PRESENT IN THE MASS MEDIA. IS THIS ONE OF YOUR STRATEGY TARGETS TOO?

The company appears in the mass media whenever we have news. People fly with our airline, they trust us therefore they need to know more about BekAir.

We have corporate web-site and we are present in the social media. There we share information, openly explain things and comment on our current developments. We did the same in the case of landing gear malfunction. The detailed information was uploaded on the web-site. It is important for us to be transparent. Otherwise, there will be rumors and later on nobody will be able to identify the truth.

SO YOUR COMPANY DOESN’T HAVE ANY PR PROGRAM?

None at all, we need to work and not to contemplate PR strategies. We talk when we have something to say.

We don’t need any extra advertisement or PR program. The Kazakhstan aviation carriers market is already divided and each air company has its own passenger segment. One has a passengers of middle range and up, ours is of middle range and lower. Our passenger is the one who used to travel by train before. Today he choses us as he pays the same money and instead of 2-3 days his trip takes about 2 hours. That is great.

Source photo: www.alimzhan.blogspot.com

IT IS GREAT INDEED. THERE IS ANOTHER QUESTION, HOW DO YOU GET MONEY FOR CONTINUOUS TRAINING OF YOUR PILOTS?

We don’t have any foreigners in our company. All the pilots, engineers, cabin crew members are Kazakhstan citizens. This is our principal concept. It is needed to give job to fellow countrymen first.

We have foreigners coming to us to advance their training, some co-pilots come to get training to become aircraft captains, please note that foreign pilots receive bigger salary than Kazakhstan pilots. Our pilots are just as good as any foreign ones are. Why don’t we send our pilots for advanced trainings and raise their wages? It will improve living standards of their families, it will uplevel the aviation industry. If pilots have prospects of professional growth in their home country why do they need to go and live somewhere abroad?

Our company has fostered 10 captains during 4 years. We always allocate enough budget for training.

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOUR COMPANY IN 5 YEARS?

We would like to make a top regional carrier. The main goal is to connect with air links as many Kazakhstan cities as possible. Crisis makes some corrections to the plan and in some areas it goes slower but we don’t lose momentum. We became serious player in the market. This is one of our achievements. The initial plan was to increase fleet up to six aircrafts, at the moment we have seven. Now we are planning to have 12 planes so that one aircraft would be always available in cases of flight delays due to, let’s say, bad weather conditions.

DO YOU THINK THERE MAY BE ANY OBSTACLES IN ACHIEVING THESE GOALS? WHO ARE YOUR FRIENDS AND ENEMIES? ARE THE REST OF KAZAKHSTAN AIRLINES YOUR COMPETITORS OR COLLEAGUES?

Anyone can throw sand in the wheels. However, our company doesn’t have enemies. We have many friends, especially airports – we have excellent working relations with them.

Other airlines, either large or small, are our partners. The competition is there but it is a healthy competition. We all represent one industry thus understand each other very well and try to help if necessary. When Rodin’s crew had the emergency landing all airlines supported us because they understand that it may happen to any of them.

IT IS GREAT THAT KAZAKHSTAN AIRLINES COOPERATE. ANYWAY, WHAT IS MORE IMPORTANT FOR YOU – THE GROWTH OF YOU COMPANY OR THE WHOLE AVIATION INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT?

Development of aviation industry is very important but the most important thing is sustainable economic growth of the country. Which means that each individual and family should have regular income, decent retirement benefits and money savings. It gives confidence in today and tomorrow. It allows people to travel and fly. Look at the European countries where students, retired people and families actively travel. It is a common thing. My dream is for Kazakhstan people to travel and fly extensively.

With regard to your question, a strong and sustainable country’s economy has equally strong aviation. The airlines’ development follow the development of the aviation industry as a whole.

 

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