Although there has yet to be a formal announcement of details such as pricing, there is evidence that the much-anticipated one day fast-track visa for Indian business people travelling to the UK is underway, and will be available in the near future. This, and the business influx it could encourage, is spearheading efforts by British Airways (BA) to consolidate their position in the South Asian nation.
On a visit to India with a British trade delegation in February, UK Prime Minister David Cameron was quoted by the BBC that the UK government would introduce “a same-day visa service for business people who want to come to Britain for linking up their businesses for trade and other things.”
Paul Rogers, marketing manager Asia Pacific & Africa at British Airways confirmed that there is evidence of development being underway in this area.
“The application process has been simplified and you can parallel process a UK visa with a Schengen one now, so it has become easier,” hs said, adding that Britain’s national tourism agency Visit Britain are working hard with the government to lobby for change in visa procedures.
Reem Khokhar, Asia Pacific manager for Visit England concurred, revealing that: “I spoke to the UK border agency recently about the Indian fast-track visa and they confirmed that they are still in the process of deciding the details, but it will be coming.”
“There’s a five-year cycle of review for visas that will be coming up at the end of this year, so we will see what will happen,” Keith Beecham, overseas network director for Visit Britain added.
Developments such as these have encouraged BA to focus on the region. “India is a definite hot spot for BA,” said Rogers.
“We have five gateways in India that we are focussing very heavily on, and India is a fabulous market with a strong association with the UK. There is also a massive Indian diaspora in the UK.”
BA’s ability to offer transfer traffic from Terminal 5 in Heathrow to over 200 destinations in the North Atlantic with partner American Airlines was identified by Rogers as a key attraction for the Indian market.
Rogers added that products such as food and IFE will be continually tweaked to the specific area of India that is being served, and that issues with domestic carrier cooperation have not been a hinderance.
“Kingfisher was to be our oneworld partner in India but that’s in hiatus right now, as Kingfisher goes through a few local problems, but at the minute we are serving the market as BA quite well,” he said.
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