“I like the way Bulgarians always find time to celebrate” – Martin Benda
Mr. Benda, how did you started in the Czech Airlines?
It has been exactly 10 years since my joining the aviation company. When I called the HR department 10 years ago they offer me a trainee position at Revenue Management Department. I did not have an idea what kind of job it is but I accepted after the brief interview. I stayed there almost three years and then I was offered the position of Reservation and Ticketing Manager in CSA New York office which is one of our biggest. Still, foreign representative office is a very specific world where you learn all about the airline business. You have to be able to step in when your colleague gets sick or calm down the client whose 80 years old father got lost during transfer in Prague (Actually he arrived to Sofia 3 days later and nobody knew how).
What is the hardest thing of being a manager in Bulgaria?
In general, I do not feel there are many obstacles in communication or business environment in Bulgaria. People are easy-going and helpful. The only unpleasant thing for me as a non-smoker perhaps is to accept very liberal policy toward smokers here and everywhere in Balkan countries.
What do you think are the main problems that the business in our country faces?
I have lived and worked in several countries and by comparison I would say the process of consolidation of businesses and companies restructuring was just started in Bulgaria. Saying that, I must add that even Czech Airlines is still state-owned company and awaits privatization in about year’s time.
Czech Airlines in Bulgaria have an anniversary. Tell us about it?
This year Czech Airlines celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the commencement of regular flights between Prague and Sofia. The then Czechoslovak Airlines first flew to Sofia on 9 February 1948. The route was operated by the legendary DC-3 Dakota aircraft. Presently, the Airline deploys its most modern Airbus A320 aircraft or Boeing 737s for 162 passengers on this twice-daily service. Last year, the service to Sofia was used by 113,700 passengers, representing a 10.9 percent year-on-year increase. Overall, Czech Airlines operated nearly 620 flights between Prague and Sofia in 2007, which is a 5.5 percent year-on-year increase. The more rapid increase in the number of passengers than the number of flights documents that the utilization of flights keeps increasing from year to year.
What is the new that the passengers of your company can expect?
With the upcoming summer 2008 timetable our planes will start landing in 6 new destinations: Strasbourg, Damascus, Heraklion, Rostov on Don, Almaty and Tbilisi. On Sofia-Prague route we are adding 3 more flights per week which are primarily dedicated to passengers travelling beyond Prague. Thus we will 19 flights weekly to Prague! We are aware of the world’s deadline imposed on paper tickets which means that on 1st June we have to be 100% electronic. Even now our passengers can buy our tickets on-line and use web check-in from the comfort of their homes and offices!
During your stay here did you manage to know Bulgaria and Bulgarians?
I think so. I try to travel in those brief moments between my duties. I love Bulgarian mountains and spas which unlike seaside are easily accessible from Sofia. Recently, I visited the picturesque city of Melnik and it was a wonderful experience.
What is the thing in our country that the you like most?
I really like the way people here always find time and resources to celebrate life with exquisite wine, tasty food and heart-moving music. I am trying to learn that.