Balle Balle on Air Slovakia

Fly Air Slovakia for Punjabi experience

An Indian-born businessman has purchased a private central European airline for an undisclosed amount. Harjinder Singh Sidhu, who lives in UK and is a British passport holder, bought Air Slovakia, a small privately owned airline based in the capital, Bratislava last week, it has emerged. His son, Riqbal ‘Rocky’ Singh, told the BBC News website that his father wants to transform the 60-employee Air Slovakia into a “Punjabi experience”. That means using crew, food and in-flight entertainment from the northern Indian state of Punjab and using regional headquarters based in the Punjabi city of Jalandhar. There will be “dedicated” planes flying into Punjab too, he said.

“The bulk of our passengers are from Punjab and Punjabis from Europe. So we want to brand Air Slovakia as an airline with Punjabi ambience and flavour. Our stewards, airhostesses will be from Punjab as also the in-flight food,” Mr Singh, who is a director at the airline, said. But what does Mr Singh say about an airline catering to passengers from Punjab still being named Air Slovakia? “The airline will have a second name of sorts when it comes to India. All tickets to and from India will be sold under a Punjabi name which will also be branded on the planes,” Mr Singh said.

The airline’s newest London Stansted to Amritsar flight, carrying its new 56-year-old owner, takes off on Friday evening and is due at its destination on Saturday morning. Passenger complaints Air Slovakia presently has a three plane fleet – two Boeing 757s and one Boeing 737. It was founded in 1993 by a group of Slovak businessmen. Punjab and Slovakia will be taken global Harjinder Singh Sidhu The new owners now plan to buy or lease six more planes by the middle of next year and expand operations. The ‘Indian’ Air Slovakia will fly to Milan, Bratislava, Birmingham, London, and Cologne in Germany. Return ticket prices are expected to range from $530 to $1100. Airline passenger websites do not report a very happy experience of travelling on Air Slovakia so far. “My advice would be not to travel on Air Slovakia, very poor service, very cramped, not enough leg room, staff rude, food poor..

Air Slovakia leave you stranded and offer you no help,” complains a passenger on one website. Another passenger wrote: “The air stewardesses grasp of English was very poor and they had no concept of any other languages like Punjabi or Hindi which was very unusual considering all the passengers were of Asian origin.” Mr Singh admits that there are “service issues with passenger satisfaction” that need to be addressed. “I think the Slovakians did not fully understand the needs of Punjabi passengers. But things have improved after we took over the airline.” The new owner, Harjinder Singh Sidhu, is a Punjab-born businessman who left India at the age of 16 and has “commercial properties and petrol” businesses based in UK, his associates say.

He has also been running chartered flights between London and Punjab for the past three years, and selling Air Slovakia tickets out of the UK since last year. Riqbal Singh says his father began “financially assisting” Air Slovakia this May before deciding to buy it out. “‘There’s no fun in running an airline like this. Let’s take it over,’ my father said. So we took it over.” One report says the father paid $30m for the airline, but the son is not confirming that – “Let’s say its in that region.” What is also unclear is how Air Slovakia was faring financially when the Singhs took it over. “Let us say it is about to enter puberty. It needs some tender love and care,” says Mr Singh with a flourish.

By Soutik Biswas BBC News, Delhi

19 Comments

  1. Kamla October 16, 2006

    What a fantastic story. Imagine eating makkai di roti and sarson da saag on a flight from Europe to India with some funky bhangra music playing in the background. I bet you it will be an utterly riotous experience!

    Kamla

  2. arzan October 17, 2006

    Kamla

    U bet !! However if the pilots also join in the melee……….then ?? 😉

  3. Varinder Sekhon February 27, 2007

    Hello Rockey

    Your Massi here. I like your website. Congratulations Balle Balle ho gaye.

    Vargi Sekhon

  4. Perbender hayer March 12, 2007

    Hello Sir,

    My name is perbender i am originally from the uk
    but now live in australia but if u ever need any pilot
    to fly for u i would be more than honoured.

    And Congraulations on ur Airline, cause my dream is to own
    and fly my own Airline as well.

  5. Prabhjot Kaur bal March 22, 2007

    we PUNJABI’S are rocking .. nd happening… hey guys its PRABHJOT KAUR BAL HERE frm aMARITSAR. ahh.. u knw wat..im goin for an interview today at 10 am.. jallandhar for AIR SLOVAKIA.. wish me best of luch… coz i want to be part of thIs…. PUNJBAI AIRLINES.. AFTER ALL ….punjabian d shaan vakhri……

  6. Prabhjot Kaur bal March 28, 2007

    hey guys….. i am selected in frst rpund.. jus hoping positive result in final round.. so meet u on board … watch me out as an PUNJABAN AIR HOSTESS.. nd MR ROCKY SIDHU.. is reallly happening, friendly nd coolest nd professional man…

  7. SIMRAN April 3, 2007

    hello rocky ,this is ur wife ….i am proud of u …keep it up !! i love u very very much !
    lets touch the sky !!

  8. BABY MASSI April 10, 2007

    HIYA ROCKY

    GOOD LUCK WE ARE ALL WITH YOU

    LOVE AND BEST WISHES

    HARD WORK PAYS OFF

  9. jasdeep kaur June 21, 2007

    Hi to whole world

    this is jasdeep kaur (JASSI) i,ve got selected in first round and got a call for second round I am very excited and please wish me BEST OF LUCK

    Now punjabies will Rock

  10. jasdeep kaur June 21, 2007

    Sat Shri akal to all the punjabies of the world

    MAY GOD BLESS OUR AIRLINE

  11. jasdeep kaur June 21, 2007

    Hiii everyone

    i m jasdeep kaur(Jassi) got selected in first round of intervw and just got a call for second round very very excited………… my dream job

    plz plz wish me a best of luck

    Sat shri akal

  12. jasdeep kaur June 21, 2007

    now punjabies rock
    whole world see punjabies going to rock sky

    god bless our airline

  13. sharan June 21, 2007

    hi

  14. Varinder Sekhon June 21, 2007

    wow lots of personal comments…

  15. Perbender hayer June 21, 2007

    Hey there rocky there is an oppurtunity here in australia in aviation as well for you if you are interested then get in contact with me and i’ll give you further info.

    Cheers.

  16. jasdeep kaur June 28, 2007

    sat shri akal to all

    got my dream job by gods grace and ur wishes

    know lets see punjabi’s rocking skyy

  17. ashish arora July 10, 2007

    sir,
    we r a corporate supplier for catering food services in & around punjab with a base of 3000 regular customer. we’ll feel obliged if we get a chance in ur airlines.
    thanx.

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