AVIATION INTERVIEW WITH MALKIT SINGH
Deputy Head of GSA for Citilink Indonesia in Malaysia
Malkit Singh is one of the more prominent figures in the aviation industry. Having been in this line of business for over 35 years, he is certainly a sailor that has conquered the seven seas. And despite this, he is still traversing into unchartered waters by starting his own company that currently represents Citilink Indonesia as their General Sales Agent in Malaysia. Airlink finds out what it takes to stay on top of your game in the aviation arena.
As the Deputy Head of a GSA (General Sales Agent) for an international airline, what are the main challenges that you face?
As Citilink Indonesia is relatively new to Malaysia, the airline has to work strategically to grow its market share on routes between Malaysia and Indonesia despite stiff competition from both full- service and low-cost carriers (LCC) in the region.
Being an LCC, Citilink’s unique selling proposition (USP) is their free checked baggage allowance which includes hot meals and drinks on most of its routes which is in contrast to other LCCs. The challenge therefore, is reaching out in innovative ways to the travelling public, especially the middle class, and offering them perks beyond what other LCCs delivers.
In spite of the fact that Citilink is in heavy competition with other airlines that fly the same routes, I believe that we are able to leverage on our USP by advertising in all possible media channels. Another challenge includes optimising both traditional and new distribution channels to secure a respectable market share on the routes operated by Citilink. Even though travellers are getting more comfortable dealing online for their travel needs, traditional distribution channels still have a significant role. The challenge here is having a balance between upholding expectations of the traditional channels and providing adequate options for travellers who wish to plan their journey by themselves.
What are your plans and vision for Citilink Indonesia in the upcoming years?
Citilink Indonesia is the LCC arm of Garuda Indonesia. It is an award-winning LCC, voted 4-star LCC by Skytrax. This is a befitting complement to a 5-star status to Garuda Indonesia (also rated by Skytrax). As an award-winning airline, Citilink has only one direction – to move forward and eventually be on par with the parent company, Garuda Indonesia.
The aviation industry is rapidly changing and is said to be increasingly challenging for airlines to circumvent. What are the initiatives that you plan to implement to overcome this?
To me, challenges are opportunities to prove yourself that you deserve a place in the forefront as a prime option for customers. We will continue to identify the issues and explore opportunities so that we can accommodate our customer’s needs.
In regards to marketing, we will focus on packaging Citilink as an airline that has an excellent flight safety record, on-time departures, convenient flight timings, premium loyalty programme benefits, and competitively priced. To us, first impression is everything and we want our customers to keep coming back.
On the other hand, we place a huge priority on frontline hospitality and fast customer service. With genuine care of our customers, I believe our frontline team are instrumental in turning Citilink into a success.
In your own opinion, what is your standpoint of Citilink Indonesia and its future in the aviation industry as one of the low-cost carriers in this region?
I believe Citilink has great potential to grow as a premier LCC in the region as the airline is essentially a different product altogether from other LCCs.
Citilink’s loyalty programme has now been integrated with Garuda Indonesia. This means that the vast global network of Garuda Indonesia is now a seamless option for Citilink customers. It is our hope to grow this loyalty programme in Malaysia so that our customers can get the best deals for their travels.
In addition, Citilink also has the Corporate Partner programme, tailored for companies and organisations travelling with us where members enjoy exclusive airfare offers. We believe that this product has great potential in the Malaysian market, which will ultimately contribute to our load factor with our existing flights between Malaysia and Indonesia.
With continued focus on air travel security, safety, best hospitality, and fast service recovery, the airline will stand out to be among the preferred short-haul LCC in the region.
Citilink Indonesia have launched 4 international routes to Malaysia: Surabaya – Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta – Kuala Lumpur, Denpasar (Bali) – Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta – Penang. Can you tell us more about these routes and what the carrier offers?
Citilink Indonesia currently uses the Airbus A320 aircraft with a 180-seat economy class configuration to connect Indonesia and Malaysia with a total of 32 flights weekly, made up of 11 weekly flights from Kuala Lumpur-Jakarta, daily flights for Penang-Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur- Surabaya and Denpasar-Kuala Lumpur. That is equal to 5760 seats offered weekly in each direction.
The free allowance for checked baggage per seat-occupying passenger on these routes is 10 kg and another 7kg for hand-baggage. This also includes a complimentary inflight hot meal.
As an award-winning carrier, we strive to further excel our hospitality attributes, flight safety and security. Our parent company, Garuda Indonesia also has a wide global network to provide seamless connectivity to meet the long-haul travel needs of our customers.
How long have you been in the industry and what kind of expertise do you have in this line of business?
I am proud to say that I have been in the aviation industry for over 35 years and counting. I started working in the finance department in Malaysia Airlines. From there, I moved around several departments (including Corporate Planning and Revenue Management) before getting posted to Penang for two years. Subsequently, I was posted to New York, USA for 7 glorious years before calling it a day.
Soon after, I was employed by Air Mauritius for 5 years, Qatar Airways for one year, and then Oscar Holidays for two years, to which were the General Sales Agent (GSA) for Sri Lankan Airlines. Finally, I decided to leave and start my own GSA company called MS Elite Global, which is proud to have Citilink Indonesia as its first airline to represent.
Thus, I can very much say that I have the wherewithal in the industry. By the same token, I believe that networking is extremely important in this industry and it is safe to say that I am well-established within the Malaysian aviation circles.
What do you love about the aviation industry that drives your passion for it?
The beauty of the aviation industry is that it is very vibrant and dynamic. It is, however, a double-edged sword as throughout your career, you will experience many peaks but there will also be many troughs. The trick is to always prepare for incoming weather.