Dimcho Topalov: New Flag Carrier Results Better than Expected

Novinite Insider » INTERVIEW | January 15, 2003, Wednesday // 00:00

Mr. Dimcho Topalov is commercial director of Bulgaria's newly established carrier Balkan Air Tour. Before his appointment in Balkan Air Tour, he worked in Balkan Airlines since 1969. Bulgaria's recently established flag carrier Balkan Air Tour conducted its first flights early December after Balkan Airlines was declared insolvent end November.

Mr. Topalov spoke with Martina Iovcheva

Q: How will you comment last week's problem with Balkan Airlines tickets when passengers were left on Sofia Airport?

A: On all tickets of all airlines, in the general rules is written that the passengers should re-confirm their reservations. The passengers knew very well about the problems of Balkan Airlines and the establishment of the new carrier Balkan Air Tour. These reservations were not confirmed and were not in the system of Balkan Air Tour, whose central is in Atlanta. As these reservations were not transferred from the system of Balkan Airlines to Balkan Air Tour, it is natural these passengers to stay without reservations. That is why when these passengers went to the airport, it turned out that the plane was full with other passengers who made reservations in the meantime.

By the way, not talking about this specific case, all airlines make "overbooking" via which they consciously overload the machine taking in mind that there is a percent of "no show" to ensure there are as many as possible passengers onboard. However, there are cases because of that "overbooking" passengers not to be able to get on the plane. I underline that I am not talking about Balkan Air Tour since we did not use that system. All airlines, including the biggest ones, use that system.

Q: Does that mean that the passengers who bought tickets from liquidated Balkan Airlines always have to re-confirm their reservations?

A: That is not obligatory but is recommendable not only for the passengers holding Balkan Airlines tickets but in general for all airlines passengers.

Q: What are the losses incurred by the new flag carrier because of its commitment to transport all people who bought tickets from Balkan Airlines?

A: Unfortunately, I cannot give you a specific figure. A very big number of the Balkan Air Tour passengers are with tickets of Balkan Airlines. Last week, about 2,200 people who have Balkan Airlines tickets were transported by the new carrier. This number is growing every day.

Q: What are the results of Balkan Air Tour since it started operation?

A: The results are better than expected. The load is good enough, being over 49 percent and in the beginning of January over 56 percent. The sales also go well. The agents sell tickets not only in Bulgaria but also abroad. The passengers calmed down. They know that another flag carrier exists and use the services of our bureaux or agencies and purchase tickets.

Q: How do the negotiations regarding flights to Moscow go? What other destinations are you negotiating?

A: We are working on the matter. We will have meetings with the Russian side next month. We are also negotiating a destination to Lisbon. We are also considering destination to Milan in cooperation with Alitalia. We are looking into possibilities for cooperation with other airlines.

Q: You are also negotiating the lease of one more Boeing....

A: Yes, we are conducting negotiations. We have confirmations from different leasing companies and we work on that matter. It will take some time. We have to check whether the plane is in order so that we do not turn up with a plane that needs a very big overhaul. This a very serious matter and it cannot be solved in days.

Q: What makes Balkan Air Tour better than Balkan Airlines?

A: We started Balkan Air Tour from zero, from the very beginning and with enthusiasm. We do our best not to repeat the mistakes of Balkan Airlines.

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